Last month, New York City's Spring Street Studios transformed into a two-floor creative incubator as thousands of innovative brands, designers, retailers, and entrepreneurs made their way downtown for Foundermade's Innovation Show East 2023, the East Coast counterpart of the group's mission-driven celebration of "the brands of tomorrow." A scouting ground for start-ups, in the past, Foundermade has featured Kickstarter favorites from LARQ to the OURA ring, as well as emerging brands and collaborations.
In addition to moderating a panel on How to Build a Life-Changing Brand That Lasts, we took in a series of fireside chats, met with dozens of product innovators, and walked the floor to learn from cutting-edge makers and thinkers.
Here are some of our favorite trends.
Inclusive Outdoor Gear
During the height of the pandemic and social distancing, adventure and travel-related products gained new popularity as people rediscovered their backyards – and the great outdoors – with fresh eyes. As more folks laced up their hiking boots or slipped on a wetsuit for the first time, they desired more inclusive adventure gear to fit all sizes, shapes, and genders. At Innovation Show East, one standout creator was HikerKind, a premium women's outdoor lifestyle fashion and retail brand and hiking community that outfits and inspires women and non-binary adventurers. At Kickstarter, we had also noticed this trend, from Alpine Parrot's size-inclusive hiking pants to Snooks' snow wear created for women to TOWEL's mission to produce full-coverage towels for all body types.
Science-Backed Scent and Skincare
With hundreds if not thousands of skincare and scent products on the market, standing out has never been harder – and necessitates both a package rethinking and innovative formulas. At Foundermade, NOON introduced neuroscience-backed plant-based products while ANATOMY®'s DNA-powered haircare championed the next generation of molecular reconstruction, and 107 presented microbiome-focused skincare made from fermented Korean vinegar. Similarly, on Kickstarter this year, we've seen skin serum made from spider DNA, the introduction of BOOST's LED and algorithm-powered skincare, and AROMA 59's solid scent capsules, among other offerings.
Spices With A Story
Spices and bespoke condiments have grown in popularity on Kickstarter since the runaway success of Fly By Jing. Heritage and wellness- inspired launches from Homiah, Spicewell (also a former Foundermade exhibitor) and Masaleydaar pointed to the popularity of seasoning with storytelling and a sharp eye for packaging. At Foundermade, this trend was confirmed with a push toward sleek offerings with a message, from Khalo and Dancing Elephant's ayurvedic eating to WTHN's minimalist interpretation of ancient Chinese medicinal teas. Interestingly, many of these products were created by those who began in UX, product design, or branding and pivoted during personal reflection points or health issues.
Exercise and wellness tech tend to get more fanfare than Food Tech – the use of innovation in everything from cake-making to food prep and storage – but this product area is rapidly growing. One Foundermade exhibitor best capturing this trend was 3D Confectionary, a company that uses custom 3D printing and technology to craft dynamic food creations. Similarly, over the last month, Kickstarter has seen Food Tech projects take off, from Chefdoodler's 3D sugar doodling pen to Dreo Chefmaker algorithm-driven fryer to Graphene Square's graphene-powered super styler and Kitchen Idea KODY 29's personal robot sous chef.
At Innovation Show East, we spoke with Walden Watches about the growth of the independent watch community, who pointed to the popularity of analog watches - especially among smaller and legacy makers - as a means to shift away from staring at phones and screens to become more present and creative. Watches have always been core to accessories on Kickstarter. However, we noticed they'd experienced a surge in popularity over the last few years with space-inspired pieces by Xeric, OVD, and Argon and a blockbuster launch from third-generation watchmakers YEMA.
While these were the key trends we've noticed both at Innovation Show East and on the Kickstarter platform, we regularly keep our eye on Foundermade's bi-coastal offerings to discover new brands, learn from industry leaders, and see what some of the world's biggest retailers are exploring.
If you aren't based on the East Coast, Foundermade also organizes the Innovation Show West On October 19th in Santa Monica and there are events throughout the year to help purpose-driven brands gain exposure, from pre-revenue to enterprise. Regardless, hopefully we'll see you next year as we return to scout the top trends of 2024.
Did you see a trend we missed? Drop us a note in the comments.
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