2023 Challenger  Brand Paper: Evolving the Consumer Value Equation

2023 Challenger Brand Paper: Evolving the Consumer Value Equation

2023 Challenger Brand Paper: Evolving the Consumer Value Equation

This year’s study celebrates the challenger brands that have successfully navigated the recent disruptive economic, political, and environmental changes by redefining the consumer value equation. With rising inflation rates, fierce national political battles, and (continued) climate turmoil, our Top 10 challenger brands are delivering on the priority needs that a growing segment of consumers no longer choose to live without in categories – climate commitment, conscientiousness and cost. We call these the ‘3 Cs’ of the evolved consumer value equation, enabling our challengers to differentiate themselves, increase their relevancy and quickly build trust.

More than ever, the consumer value equation needs to be at the forefront of brand and strategy planning, particularly for those less entrenched movers looking to make inroads. This year’s Top 10 challenger brands highlight new ways to deliver against the ‘3 Cs’.

Climate Commitment:
Consumers are increasingly emphatic about incorporating sustainability & environmental consciousness into their lives. Eco-consciousness is cementing itself as a key part of the value equation, and challengers are making huge strides to appeal to a more scalable, mainstream audience. Challengers who deliver against priority category dimensions, while also providing a more climate friendly solution and anchoring sustainability as key to their reason for being, can win in this environment.

1. Viv

Look to Viv for earth-friendly and toxin-free period care. Their packaging is 100% recyclable, pads & liners are fully biodegradable in 150 days, and their organic cotton tampons are made with plant-based applicators, cutting out harmful chemicals and uncomfortable plastic. Not only is Viv dedicated to helping menstruators everywhere have a zero-waste period, but they are also committed to smashing period stigma, as promoted through the Voices by Viv podcast. While subscribe & save makes it easy to have period care delivered when you need it, you can now also find this brand in-store at CVS!


New entrant to the sauce market, AWSM, is helping consumers to Avoid Waste + Season Meaningfully. The powder form of their sauces allows for extended shelf life, eradicating the #1 reason for condiment waste (they’re not used in time!) By cutting out water weight, the company also reduces their environmental shipping impact (i.e., less fuel), furthering the brand’s mission to help the world #sauceresponsibly.

3. Akua

Akua is making ‘kelp-based’ the new ‘plant-based’ with their range of kelp-based meat alternatives. As animal agriculture is the 2nd largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the world, Akua is focused on creating a tasty way to replace factory farming with regenerative ocean farming. Their farming practices significantly reduce CO2 emissions and help us be kinder to the planet – one kelp burger at a time! Impressively, they’ve raised $5.4M to date and show no sign of stopping.

4. Atomo

Founded in 2019, newcomer to the caffeine scene Atomo is paving the way for a more sustainable coffee kick – without the beans! The star ingredient is upcycled date seeds and their brewing method uses 94% less water and expends 93% less carbon emissions than conventional cold brew. As climate change continues to threaten traditional coffee production, Atomo points to the future of coffee, supporting the ever-increasing demand for your daily brew. Recently named to TIME’s list of the best inventions of 2022, this brand is certainly one to watch.

Younger consumers increasingly prioritize supporting mission-driven brands – with around 3 in 4 of Gen Z and Millennials actively seeking out brands that support the causes they believe in. Given next gen’s increasing share of wallet, it’s more important than ever for challengers to authentically tie themselves to a clear sense of purpose, rooted in social good. Mission-driven challenger brands who can creatively, authentically, and substantially deliver on their promises and create unique pathways for consumers to give back see outsized returns.

5. Conscious Step

With each pair of socks devoted to a different cause, Conscious Step partners with a variety of non-profits (e.g., environmental, animal rights, human needs, etc), delighting consumers with the ability to choose which cause they want to support with their purchase. Consious Step provides transparency into the tangible impact they’ve had; this includes a continually updated monetary tracker that stands at over $800k today, a list of their partner organizations and communities they serve, and a breakdown of the cash flow.

6. Ajiri

Women-owned and operated tea & coffee brand Ajiri takes a multidimensional approach to living out its name which means “to employ” in Swahili. Tea and coffee are sourced / grown in Kenya, and local women create the unique banana bark labels. All profits go to the Ajiri Foundation funding childhood education for orphans in Western Kenya, allowing Ajiri to use education to empower and uplift the communities it serves. This brand earned its spot on shelf at Whole Foods, allowing consumers to support this important mission while drinking flavorful warm beverages.

7. Chum Fruit Bites

Chum Fruit Bites offers a snack you can feel good about giving kids for two reasons: their nutrition panel and commitment to the protection of different endangered species. These natural fruit snacks instill the importance of environmental protection in children through their visually engaging animal graphics and their donation of 15% of profits to WILDAID.org – an NGO that works to end the multi-billion-dollar illegal global wildlife trade industry. Founded in Ireland in 2017, the brand has recently expanded to the US through Amazon and their DTC site.

It goes without saying that in this inflationary environment consumers are increasingly cost conscious. Budget is top of mind, and it’s critical for brands to get creative with how to deliver (& communicate) value most effectively. Challengers most able to help consumers manage their budget while maintaining creative, elevated offerings are rewarded.

8. The Inkey List

The Inkey List is on a mission to empower consumers with the knowledge they need to navigate their skincare journey. They know skincare can be confusing, so they prioritize accessible price points that allow consumers to test and learn, ultimately building their perfect skincare routine! Inkey reduces costs through less expensive, sustainable packaging and by sourcing ingredients themselves, limiting manufacturing costs, to deliver high quality products all under $15. Since their launch in 2018 they’ve gleaned high praise from leaders in beauty (e.g., Allure) and earned prominent positioning everywhere from TikTok to the shelves of Sephora, reshaping skincare one award-winning serum at a time!

9. Dialogue

Dialogue is an Israeli-based, revolutionary ecommerce platform that uses AI-powered messaging to create individualized shopping experiences – all while helping brands manage site maintenance costs. Personalization is on-trend across the consumer goods landscape, and Dialogue helps ecommerce interactions match the level of personalization of an in-store shopping experience for companies of all sizes – from Sabon to L’Occitane. Dialogue has helped businesses lift conversion rates, session time, and ARPU more easily, all while reducing the brands’ bottom lines and enhancing the shopping experience for consumers.

10. EveryPlate

“America’s best value meal kit,” EveryPlate, helps consumers save time and money on their weekly grocery haul. With EveryPlate, you get a delicious meal for only $4.99 per serving – around 44% less than key competitors– and about 30 minutes of your time. This challenger sits within Hello Fresh, exemplifying how bigger companies can target a wider consumer base by offering accessible versions of their popular services. Reduced packaging and a more streamlined menu keep prices down, allowing consumers of all income levels to be an EveryPlate’r and home chef.

Climate commitment, conscientiousness, and cost are becoming integral to the consumer value equation. Consumers are more keyed into costs and want to put their dollars to work with brands that deliver against causes they care about, including protecting the planet. Think critically about how to reflect the importance of the 3Cs within your consumer value equation, whether through innovation, brand strategy and/or portfolio strategy.
As always, we want to hear from you! If you’d like more information on any of our challenger brand studies, or want to share a brand of your own, please reach out at info@seuratgroup.com.
What’s the Why?

What’s the Why?

What’s the Why?

Today, brands have more data at their fingertips than ever
before. The challenge? Many become overwhelmed or follow it blindly, missing the all-important whys needed to shape smart strategies. Consider these examples:
  • A pet food brand invested in performance marketing but struggled to articulate underlying attitudes and unifying motivations of its target cohorts, severely limiting the effectiveness and efficiency of its marketing investment.
  • A confectionary brand invested in keyword tracking of a given category with three key retailer partners to support collaborative innovation. They were able to identify key claims and tag lines that performed well in the past 52 weeks but could not isolate brand vs. retailer choice factors.
  • A produce brand built a custom dashboard to integrate three different data sources and found they had a clear view to what happened in the past, but no understanding of how to influence consumers looking forward.

Scenarios like these are becoming all too common as marketers are overwhelmed with data sources and the opportunity to test/learn, drive performance marketing, and optimize brand strategy. As Advanced Analytics and Insight teams build capability with data analytics, it is important to understand this is only one part of a more comprehensive consumer growth engine. It is the ‘What,’ as in ‘What is the data telling us?’ Sustainable growth comes from utilizing all five pillars of the Consumer Growth Engine.

  • What: What is the data telling us?
  • Why: Why is this happening? Where is the consumer headed? (core insight)
  • How: How does insight come to life as activation?
  • Risk/Opportunity: What does this mean for competition? R&D? Retail relationships?
  • Fit: Can this brand do this meaningfully? Is there mission fit? Consumer permission?

Growth Strategy across the demand plan is limited without factoring in all five pillars. A key first step is moving beyond the what and asking, What’s the Why? That will drive greater human understanding and engagement.

A leading dairy brand provides an example of how the
Consumer Growth Engine creates opportunity.

A leading premium dairy brand plays in the family-size and pint-size ice cream space. Trends indicate that plant-based ice cream is where the growth resides. Brands are diving into plant-based expansion, and consumers appear passionate about it, driving an 11% CAGR for plant-based ice cream. Had the brand relied solely on data, it would have jumped headlong into plant-based ice cream. Instead, the team dug deeper into the whys, recognizing that in ice cream, plant-based ingredients matter far less than winning on taste and indulgence. The result? While competitors jumped on the plant-based bandwagon, the brand launched a rich, ultra-creamy custard innovation that outperformed the plant-based segment.

  • What: Ultra-creamy, rich, high-end French (egg-based) custard ice cream.
  • Why: Consumers turn to ice cream for indulgence and ‘worth it’ taste, not a watered down, better-for-you version.
  • How: Build on the legacy of the brand and provide premium pints of consumer faves
  • Risk: As other brands pursue one-off innovation with each new trend, this premium dairy brand doubled down on core equities, facing fewer competitors by providing decadence and finest quality.
  • Fit: Plant-based could not fit with the brand and legacy. Activating on an insight that fits with the core promise of the brand led to rapid success.

Big data has the potential to help brands in numerous ways. Consequently, the global data market is worth an estimated $70BB in 2022, driven by messaging that growth will come with more data or faster analysis. The hurdle is that relying on big data alone gives brands ammunition to analyze only the “What.” Big data can over-shadow other parts of the consumer growth engine which are needed to create and capture consumer value. There are plenty of companies offering more data and platforms to churn through that data at an increasing rate. However, sustainable growth requires insights to blend with analysis and ultimately understand the “why.”

How to get started

To establish and action the Consumer Growth Engine leaders must ask, ‘What’s the Why?”, and brands must:

  • Build forward-looking data sources and analytics
  • Create cross-functional Consumer Growth Engine teams
  • Collect and connect consumer “why” insights and combine with “what” data
  • Wire a process to action Consumer Growth Engine insights

Are you ready to unlock the “why” of your brand to drive future innovation and growth? We welcome conversation at info@seuratgroup.com.

Durable Growth via Consumer-First Strategy

Durable Growth via Consumer-First Strategy

Durable Growth via Consumer-First Strategy


The past 24 months have redefined instability & reactionary movement globally & in the CPG landscape. COVID-19, international conflict, inflationary pressure, supply chain disruption & margin compression have altered how businesses operate, plan, and succeed, with CPG being no exception. This rests upon an already overwhelming information environment brands compete for consumer mindshare within. These macro factors leave leaders wrestling with how to navigate the turbulence, break through the clutter, and deliver enduring, profitable growth.

The answer, more than ever, lies in the Consumer.

Defining Your Consumer Market

Understandably, uncomfortable times lead many manufacturers & brand planners to hyper focus on the numbers & metrics. This often means defining initiatives through a category-tracked means (i.e. a market structure, CDT, syndicated data base) or through customer and channel challenges. While these business views are not unimportant, neither is optimal to define growth strategies and unlock durable growth.
By framing your market through the consumer vantage point, demand planning & investment are tightly focused towards tangible steps to unlock outsized impact where value lies. In order to frame your market correctly, first you need to segment your consumer universe. Then you need to identify a target (i.e design target, retain target, recruit target) and finally, you need to plan against them. This will bring clarity and actionable focus, making it easier to translate insight into actions across the organization. Sizing your consumer segment opportunity forces a forward-looking view to understand the barriers and triggers to source the growth and consumer behaviors to change.

Wiring a Consumer-First Growth Strategy

A clearly articulated & sized consumer market, identified design target & according activation tactics focus the demand plan design against the priority consumer goals. Consumer first orientation enables companies to translate their mission & vision more seamlessly – often rooted in the consumer – to be more tightly linked to commercial planning. This ‘wiring’ of a Consumer-First Growth Model (illustrated below) enables brands to synchronize the entire demand plan against the consumer priorities and show up as powerfully as possible to deliver an omni-channel brand experience.

How to Get Started

By fleshing out consumer market, consumer priorities, and size of opportunity we can inform the proper insight towards integrated demand planning. Are you looking to deliver durable, profitable growth? We welcome conversation at info@seuratgroup.com

2022 Challenger Brand Paper: Gen Z Disruptors

2022 Challenger Brand Paper: Gen Z Disruptors

2022 Challenger Brand Paper: Gen Z Disruptors

While youth have always been at the forefront of defining and shaping trends in society, members of Gen Z are particularly unique in their influence. Gen Z is the most diverse (racially, ethnically, orientation & otherwise) generation in our country’s history, and they’re experiencing the world in one of its most tumultuous forms. Gen Z knows a world of tech reliance, political & social tension, and the stark realities of living in a global pandemic, all shaping the way they influence us today.

Gen Z raises the bar – they are steadfast in their values and expect more from all facets of their world, making what they expect from brands no different. They look for brands to not only reflect their values in mission, but also seamlessly be a part of places they frequent most – different interfaces across the digital sphere. This generation was uniquely digitally reliant & native even prior to the pandemic, and COVID-19’s impact on our whole society’s digital fluency has only solidified & strengthened Gen Z’s positioning as leaders in this realm. For Gen Z, integrated shopping (& brand marketing) across in-store and digital touchpoints has become table stakes, and their dexterity in the digital landscape has given any brand who can harness this authority, authentically, unprecedented power with this consumer & generations beyond. Furthermore, the spending power of Gen Z is second only to Millennials, closing in on $150B despite these shoppers being 24 and under.

Brands that can be part of Gen Z’s lifestyle command significant value across categories, evident by recent acquisitions of challenger brands that target younger consumers by category-leading strategics (e.g., Youth to the People (L’Oreal)).

This year’s Challenger Brand paper introduces 3 key strategies on how to win with the Gen Z consumer and identifies brands who have successfully adopted these strategies.

Challenger Brands that have successfully employed these tactics to become Gen Z Disruptors:

1. Starface: Starface makes skincare fun & is most popular for their star shaped pimple patches. They celebrate youth, make treating acne ‘cute’ & whimsical vs. stigmatized & shameful, and provide an avenue for self-expression. Search #Starface on IG and see teens & adults proudly dawning pimple patches in selfies, even Hailey Bieber.

2. Parade: Inclusive underwear brand Parade brings “unreal comfort” in “expressive basics” to all, promoting sustainable fabrics (with popping colors!) and social good. Parade is a timely entrant to the market, explicitly looking to compete and push out the category incumbents promoting a certain ‘look’ and size as the desired standard vs. loving each individual as they are.

3. Liquid death: Founded by a former punk & heavy-metal band member, Liquid Death brings interesting and provocative marketing to an age-old category – water. Liquid Death’s canned water offer leverages TikTok, partnerships with Gen Z influencers like YouTube’s Cody Ko, and even a joint Netflix campaign to get word out on their visually edgy, sustainable business model focused on plastic reduction & 10% profit give back.

4. Necessaire: Personal care company Necessaire knows what they bring to the table: spa-like aesthetics, subtle, but luxurious products in smell & texture, and a clean, responsible footprint (climate & plastic neutral, clean / vegan formulas, donations per sale). Put this all in a targeted social media strategy that creates buzz & desire to associate oneself with the brand, and Necessaire has taken the ‘Instagram brand’ trope & flipped it on its head.

5. Colourpop: Incubated by the same company that launched Kylie Cosmetics & KKW Beauty, Colourpop consistently outpaces its ‘celebrity-founded /backed’ social competition on digital engagement. Why? Colourpop democratizes beauty in a way that high spend luxury brands don’t, and bets on the social sphere in a way that makes Gen Z gravitate to this ‘new wave’, ‘fast beauty’ brand.

6. Simulate/NUGGS: Plant-based chicken nuggets done right. Take a resonant value equation (plant-based, high taste) & pair it with a social savvy-ness & edge unique in the F&B space and get Simulate – a tech forward ‘chicken’ nuggets brand (NUGGS) looking to go viral and eliminate factory farming. With packaging emulating more ‘fashionable coffee-table book’ than frozen food box, and product pictures that could be out of a Vogue editorial, look to Stimulate to standout as the brand continues to expand from DTC to brick & mortar.

7. Alani Nu: Disrupting traditional energy drinks & historical male-centric targeting, Alani Nu’s brand positioning invites all consumers into the space with cleaner, less harsh options in both ‘vibe’ and nutrition (no sugar, added vitamins). Their most recent partnership with Addison Rae exemplifies the brand’s direction: bubbly Gen Zers who want more energy in a fashionable, permissible & cool way, removing any stigma traditionally associated with the space. Founded in 2018, the brand has reached nearly 800k IG followers in just a few years.

8. BEHAVE: Woman-launched in 2020, BEHAVE is one of the newest entrants to the candy category looking to tackle traditional sentiments towards ‘bad’ foods head on – each package of better-for-you gummies (just 3g of sugar, with 6g of protein) has an all caps BEHAVE crossed out, a nod to more positive attitudes surrounding sweet indulgences. BEHAVE brings competition to the otherwise un-challenged BFY gummy space dominated by Smart Sweets. Bolder messaging & a more accepting POV makes this F&B brand one to watch.
By employing these 3 strategies above, category-leading, established brands can authentically connect with this cohort, too. Recent examples of stalwart brands that have expanded their consumption target to appeal to Gen Z include:
Making a concerted effort to win with Gen Z will expand a brand’s market, growth, and enduring value. We’ve identified three strategies that challenger brands have successfully employed that can translate to companies – large & small – to reach audiences of all ages. As always, we want to hear from you! If you’d like more information on any of our challenger brand studies, or want to share a brand of your own, please reach out at info@seuratgroup.com.
Challenger Brands: A Look Back, to Look Forward

Challenger Brands: A Look Back, to Look Forward

Challenger Brands: A Look Back, to Look Forward

Over the years, Seurat Group’s Challenger Brand studies identified many practices of winning Challenger Brands. However, one characteristic rises above the others among successful Challenger Brands, which is a relentless drive to delight the consumer. This is the secret sauce a challenger utilizes to develop and provide a unique and compelling value proposition to consumers. Today, we step back to highlight two brands from previous Challenger Brand studies that distinguished themselves by delighting consumers in ways overlooked by traditional brands. We see this process play out time and again as Challenger Brands are founded and flourish in categories where incumbents become disconnected from the needs of their consumers.

How did it all begin?

When Nuun was founded in 2004 consumer attention in the beverage category was increasingly turning to the prevalence of sugar in products. Athletes in particular craved solutions that hydrated them without excess sugar and additives, but were primarily faced with choosing between traditional branded options that combined hydration benefits with high calories. By identifying this consumer tension, Nuun created a new hydration solution separating “electrolyte replacement from carbohydrates.” While they were immediately accepted by hardcore athletes, Nuun was quick to realize this healthy hydrating beverage was something that a broader universe of consumers desired. We highlighted the steps they took in our 2016 Challenger Brand study as they used everyday ambassadors to drive growth by demonstrating that healthy hydration was available to everyone – not just athletes.

What unmet consumer needs has the brand continued to solve?

Targeting recovery & rest: Nuun has continued to solve health-conscious consumers’ needs within the hydration space. In February of 2019, Nuun launched Nuun Rest. Vishal Patel, Nuun’s senior head of R&D, framed the move as a new approach to recovery products saying that a lot are “protein based.” Nuun “wanted to take a different route and include some minerals that take you in a direction of more restful relaxation.” The brand was able to stand out as they zeroed in on specific product benefits their consumers were drawn to. Nuun continued this theme of distinct and purposeful product delivery in 2021 when they sought to expand into providing its users with clean, lasting energy with Nuun Energy. Unlike many incumbent products that were loaded with long ingredient lists and excess sugar, the brand looked to offer consumers an alternative that was non-GMO verified, vegan, gluten-free and kosher. These product expansions further differentiated the brand for their consumers.

Where are they now?

Nuun recently entered into an agreement to be acquired by Nestlé later this year. The brand is a major player in the healthy hydration space and is poised for additional growth due to their continued commitment to delight the modern consumer, consistent with their “challenger roots.”


How did it all begin?

For generations of consumers, chocolate has been a delicious indulgence. It’s something consumers love, but many struggle with the guilt that comes after partaking in a treat. The founders of Lily’s Sweets understood this basic tension well, and the brand was created on the premise that consumers should be able to enjoy delicious chocolate without a serving of guilt. Lily’s accomplished this and stood out from other brands in the category by giving consumers a delicious sweet treat without the sugar. In our 2019 Challenger Brand study, we highlighted Lily’s for their ability to carve out a unique competitive edge. They provide an indulgent and guilt-free chocolate experience all while operating within guidelines of fair-trade certifications and by using plant-based sugar substitutes.

What unmet consumer needs has the brand continued to solve?

Lily’s expands the sugar reduction movement: Founder Cynthia Tice has a clear brand strategy in mind that Lily’s is, “a leader in the sugar reduction movement, here to help limit your overall sugar intake while working to give you sweets you’ll obsess over.” COVID provided opportunities for the brand to delight consumers in new ways. As the pandemic caused the country to shut down, consumers were grazing and treating themselves at a higher rate. In fact, 46% of adults said they snacked more during the pandemic and the top driver of this was a desire for comfort. Lily’s capitalized on this trend and launched products to meet this elevated consumer need. In January of 2020, the brand launched milk chocolate caramel popcorn for those family movie nights amidst the lockdown. In June, they continued to innovate and target consumers who were increasingly baking at home, launching white chocolate and chocolate-caramel baking chips.

Where are they now?

Lily’s attention to consumer needs within the broader snacking category allowed them to branch into new occasions and reach new heights of success. The brand recently entered into an agreement to be acquired by The Hershey Company. The acquisition was an acknowledgement of Lily’s ability to delight the consumer, with Lily’s CEO Jane Miller noting that by “joining Hershey’s family of brands, Lily’s will become a platform confection brand making BFY options easily accessible to all consumers.”

By remaining relentlessly connected to the emerging needs of consumers in their categories, both Nuun and Lily’s highlight how Challenger Brands succeed and flourish when focused on that secret sauce. Do other brands come to mind that have done the same? We welcome conversation at info@seuratgroup.com.