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One of the most visceral experiences in anyone's life is conceiving and raising a baby, and some of the world's biggest companies revolve around an increasing parental obsession with getting the first couple of years right.
But now, one of the central businesses in infant care — the $7 billion-a-year U.S. baby food market — appears ripe for disruption by startups that are changing how business value is defined.
Driving the news: What is happening in baby food reflects the shift in retail, in which a new brand's value is increasingly not based purely on revenue, but on its reliable fan base — how much traffic it can bring a store at a time when shoppers are fickle.
Baby food has long been dominated by two brands: Gerber remains No. 1, and Beech-Nut is the second-biggest seller.
Angela Sutherland is co-founder of Yumi, a California-based organic baby food startup that markets direct to consumers. Sutherland sends overnight shipments of freshly made baby foods to its clientele weekly.
Sutherland says that big retailers have begun to circle the company in hopes of a distribution deal. "It shows how much retailers want brands with connection to a fan base," she says.
Yumi is fulfilling two current market fads — making organic foods and shipping them to customers' doorsteps. The business is subscriber-based, and it tries to be highly customized, arriving in a box with a card listing nutritional studies validating a particular mixture of ingredients, Sutherland says.
"Now we ship to New York and the tri-state area. We are rolling out nationally this year," says Sutherland, a former investment banker. "We didn't realize how fast the business could grow."
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Yesterday, Michael Esser, a Future reader in Los Angeles, emailed about our report that digitalization is speeding up the disruption of the global political and economics system, Kaveh writes.
"If you look around — even as a person who is deeply interested in the issue — there’s just almost nothing that announces what you describe is soon to come," Esser wrote.
Why it matters: Without an idea of how society will be reshaped by these emerging technologies, there's little chance for the public to agitate for solutions to pressing problems just around the corner, like biased AI systems that can keep minorities out of jobs or in jail.
Survey after survey shows that Esser is right. AI, despite being a near-universal buzzword, often seems detached from everyday life, and it is difficult to know how important it will eventually be.
The danger is that the public will be blindsided by the effect of new technologies when they hockey-stick into prominence, says David Schatsky, a technology analyst at Deloitte. And by that time, it may be too late to address the unsolved ethical questions that still plague AI.
"The biggest issue with this, in my opinion, is that technology shapes our lives in ways that most do not anticipate. And it invariably has unintended consequences. If more of us were better at futures thinking, we might be able to wrangle those consequences before they do much harm."— David Schatsky, Deloitte
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
China — and Chinese money — appear to be dramatically retreating from the West, according to two new numbers, Erica reports.
The big picture: We've entered an era of hostility in the U.S.-China fight, with the two gargantuan powers unequivocally opposing one another.
Can technology fix the housing market? (Emily Badger — NYT)
Climate change's red-state toll (Ben Geman — Axios)
Low-skilled UK workers stuck in ‘vicious cycle’ (Robert Wright — FT)
The new lithium great game (Mitra Taj, Michael Nienaber — Reuters)
No country for old Koreans (Kim Jaewon — Nikkei Asian Review)
City of Legos. Photo: Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto/Getty
Forget stocks, bonds and even gold. Savvy investors should be looking at Legos.
Erica writes: According to research from Russia's Higher School of Economics, reported by Vox, resold Legos yield a higher return than any of the investments listed above.