NEW YORK — Transparency is the holy grail at Bubble, a new online marketplace featuring health and wellness products, from granola butters to jackfruit chews, olive oils to kale chips. The digital platform is looking to disrupt clean eating by bucking conventions of the traditional food system.
“The future of food is very transparent,” said Jessica Young, founder and chief executive officer at Bubble. “If we say we’re a health food company, then we should be backing foods that are actually healthy. That’s how we came up with the name Bubble. It reflects this protected, transparent world.”
Ms. Young, Michelin-trained chef, first entered the food startup scene as a founding member of Hu Kitchen in New York City (Mondelez International took a minority stake in Hu Kitchen earlier this year). She later created her own seasonal plant-based pop-up, called Young’s, before moving into ecommerce with meal kit start-up Ritual. She currently is an adviser to fresh seafood subscription company OceanBox and a mentor at the Chobani Incubator.
Before launching Bubble, Ms. Young was head of product and operations at organic, frozen meal company Daily Harvest. It was there she identified an opportunity in the health food world: a digitally native marketplace that brings together health-conscious consumers with innovative new foods. The idea was to create a space where clean label brands could bridge the direct-to-consumer gap under one umbrella.
The platform launched in January and features over 500 products on www.getintothebubble.com. The model is simple. There’s no minimum inventory, and brands set their own prices. Bubble takes a 35% cut, and brands take home 65%.
“On the business model front, we’re different because we’re a drop ship marketplace, we don’t hold inventory and brands make more money with us than they do with a resale or wholesale relationship,” Ms. Young said.
Bubble’s simple, stylized website also features a "fun stuff" blog, where visitors can learn how to handle Coachella withdrawals or read about the royal baby’s clean eating plan. This helps build loyalty with the brand’s target audience: young millennials and Gen Z, according to Ms. Young.
“We’re not targeting people that are deal hunting or going after large format families,” she said. “We offer a younger demographic who is typically a single person. We’re targeting people who are looking for what’s trendy, who want to take chances and be in the know.”
The platform was designed as an easier alternative to shopping on websites with uncurated, extensive arrays of options or buying directly from a variety of independent brands. All products are “Bubble approved,” according to a list of criteria developed by nutritionists and chefs. Products are screened to never contain refined, artificial sugar and dyes; preservatives, fillers or gums; trans fats and hydrogenated oils. Bubble said its approved products are clean, made with whole ingredients, as organic as possible, non-G.M.O., nutritious, sent from a certified safe food source and "shelfie" worthy.
“We don’t compromise on that at all,” Ms. Young said. “If we did, we’d probably have thousands of s.k.u.s (stock keeping units) by now. Instead, we really stick to that mission and those standards.”
Shoppers can search the digital marketplace for products that meet specific dietary preferences, including keto, vegan, gluten-free, paleo and raw. Products also are easily sorted by specific health goals such as cold defense, anti-inflammatory, heart health, mood, energy, memory, insomnia, digestion and more.
In addition to connecting consumers with small, independent brands, Bubble has its own line of in-house branded products.
“We let our brands know that Bubble is going to be innovating,” Ms. Young said. “We’re not copying things that are on our platform and releasing them. We’re going after the white space, things we feel need to be in the health food space that aren’t.”
As a food maker, Ms. Young said she isn’t looking to overcomplicate things or make products that confuse consumers. An example is the brand’s Hella spread, a clean label version of classic Nutella hazelnut spread.
“There’s so much to be done just cleaning up what’s out there,” she said. “You can walk down a typical grocery store, and there’s things that haven’t been reinvented in 50-plus years. Honestly, it’s kind of boring.”
As the number of products available on the marketplace continues to grow, Ms. Young has her eyes on making Bubble the largest selection of curated health foods in the world.
“Part of our most recent initiative is to find products that aren’t sold anywhere else and encourage brands to launch with Bubble, instead of investing in things right away that aren’t going to drive immediate sales,” she said.
In addition to focusing on supplements and protein powders, the company plans to launch in the perishables space. Soon, nutritionists will be able to create their own collections of healthy food and refer clients to their Bubble selection.
“The goal is to shift the food landscape,” Ms. Young said. “We’re giving brands access to these customers and giving customers access to these products they didn’t even know existed.”