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.

Five Tips for Growing in a Recession

Five Tips for Growing in a Recession

Five Tips for Growing in a Recession

While the National Bureau of Economic Research is still debating whether we’re in recession, it’s clear many US households are in for a rough ride. Consumer confidence is down for the third consecutive month[i], we’ve had two quarters of negative GDP growth[ii], and 75% Americans are “very concerned” about rising prices for food and consumer goods.[iii]

Seasoned business leaders may be tempted to dust off recession playbooks from 2008, but things look a lot different this time around. In addition to lingering post-COVID supply chain challenges and conflict in Ukraine, Americans are facing significantly greater economic headwinds:

    • Gas prices (while abating) are averaging $4.20 per gallon
    • Inflation for food at home is north of 12%, 2.5x what it was in 2008[iv]
    • SNAP participation rose from 28MM individuals in 2008 to 42MM in 2021[v]
    • The average home price to median income ratio increased from 6.0 to 8.3 since 2008[vi]

Thankfully, with the right strategy, brands can not only survive, but thrive in this environment – and better deliver on consumers’ evolving needs – provided they act decisively and lead vs. follow. Read on for Seurat’s tips for growing in a recession.

1. Welcome consumers “feeling the pinch” into your brand.

During periods of expansion, businesses can afford to remain focused on a singular consumer target. The result is consumers most likely to feel an economic pinch tend to be overlooked, despite tremendous collective buying power. (The total spending power of US households earning less than $70k per year is a staggering $2.3T.[vii])

Savvy brands see value in identifying and recruiting secondary consumer targets, which often means casting a wider socioeconomic net. Consider the meteoric rise of buy now pay later services, which funnel an estimated $120B in global spending[viii]. Nearly 25,000 merchants, including household name brands like Kiehl’s and Vital Proteins, now let shoppers pay in installments interest-free through Afterpay[ix]. The service has allowed these brands to access a new cohort – younger shoppers who don’t buy on credit.

Our Equity Expansion practice is designed to help brands reach new consumer cohorts – including those most likely to feel an economic pinch – by building empathy and optimizing go to market.

2. Pivot communications to highlight value.

Research has shown that even in a recession, brands still need to invest in equity-building. And with material costs at a record high, brands can’t afford to keep buying down price through promotional spending. The answer? Stop focusing on price, and pivot comms to showcase the numerator of your value equation.

Take LL Bean’s recent campaign celebrating durability. Inspired by the true story of an eight-year-old girl who wanted a new backpack and wrote a letter to the company asking how to wear it out, the campaign smartly focuses on defining value through long-lasting quality, not price. Highlighting value often means reframing the equation, the way powdered beverage mixes celebrate more servings relative to a jug of juice or two-liter of soda.

Our marketing strategy pillar helps brands celebrate their value equation, identifying the right message to resonate with the right consumers at the right moments.

3. Reimagine price/pack architecture.

When costs rise, manufacturers are quick to leverage price / pack architecture to protect and even juice margins. But consumers have gotten wise to “shrinkflation” – many responding with public outrage – and a recession isn’t the time to start chipping away at shopper value. When the going gets tough, smart brands turn to Strategic Revenue Management, tweaking product sizes and pack configurations to optimize for value-conscious shoppers.

Consider Dove body wash on Amazon. As of this writing, a single 16.9 oz bottle sells for $0.48/oz. For shoppers who have the budget and space to buy and store more inventory, a three-pack of 28 oz bottles sells for 40% less at $0.29/oz. Similarly, confectionery manufacturers are shifting to smaller, even single-serving packs at lower price points that allow consumers to indulge without breaking the bank.

Our SRM practice – perhaps the least sexy but one of the most important drivers of value creation – helps brands design and optimize portfolios to balance shopper value with profitability.

4. Make yourself indispensable.

Products seen as catering to wants vs. needs are typically the first to go in a recession. Smart brands make themselves indispensable by continually reminding consumers of the need they’re solving or pain point they’re alleviating. The trick is leveraging smart marketing to connect to basic needs, like safety, security and wellness.

When condom sales plummeted during COVID as the virus wreaked havoc on non-monogamous hookups, Trojan retrenched in messaging about protection and STI/STD prevention. The brand remains the best-selling condom today – all the more impressive given its premium price position.

Our brand architecture practice helps brands sharpen their reason for being – including positioning themselves as indispensable in the lives of consumers – ultimately boosting ROI through more effective marketing.

5. Nurture relationships with the right customers.

With economic headwinds, shoppers make different choices about where and how they buy – forcing businesses to revisit channel prioritization. For many, this will require renewed focus on Walmart and “alternative” channels like convenience, dollar and discounter (e.g., Aldi). For others, it will mean doubling down on existing customer relationships as customers re-evaluate priorities and partnerships.

Successful brands engage in joint business planning, prioritizing category growth over individual brand priorities. That means bringing breaking the cycle of SKU-level line reviews and bringing forward-looking insights and thought leadership.

Our customer leadership practice helps brands elevate their relationships with omnichannel retailers, positioning them as strategic partners vs. transactional vendors.

Looking to ensure your business is wired to grow in the next 12-18 months? Contact us 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

Winning Today vs. Winning Tomorrow: Where will Your Growth Come From?

Winning Today vs. Winning Tomorrow: Where will Your Growth Come From?

Winning Today vs. Winning Tomorrow: Where will Your Growth Come From?

Growth Catalyst super-charges brand growth phase

Introduction, Growth, Maturity and Decline – these 4 stages represent the expected fate of a brand. The only question for most is: When will each stage kick in? For brands in the growth phase, the work is centered on fueling and executing a proven strategy to win consumers and customers. Once the initial strategy runs its course, brands need a clear catalyst for continued growth, or they face maturity and decline. For some brands, growth is short and sweet, measured in years. Enduring brands find consumer catalysts that extend the growth phase for decades or more. All brands must recognize that winning today and winning tomorrow may be totally different and proactively plan to sustain growth well before stagnation and maturity set in.

Enabling continued growth and redefining the secret sauce employed to win consumers is a fundamental issue for both new and established brands. Our innovative Growth Catalyst Model provides a consumer-first approach to identify and prioritize which beliefs and behaviors will unlock significant growth. Pairing this deep insight with industry expertise supplies the strategic pathway to translate proprietary understanding into meaningful growth.

The Growth Catalyst process involves codifying the drivers of brand usage among current consumers AND developing a deep understanding of barriers to 1) increasing usage, and 2) recruiting new consumers to the brand. We’ve found that barriers are specific to products, occasions, and consumer cohorts, and not all barriers are created equal. Barriers differ greatly in terms of the effort required to change the behavior, and in the growth available from overcoming the barrier. The Growth Catalyst process prioritizes which opportunities to focus on by ranking barriers based on ease of driving behavior change paired with the overall opportunity to drive sales. Top opportunities are then evaluated and prioritized based on the overall level of risk and investment required.
The Growth Catalyst Model is a consumer-driven way to sustain long term brand growth through consumer and consumption growth. Are you ready to chart your long-term growth goals? We welcome conversation at info@seuratgroup.com