We've all been shopping more online during this pandemic, and that includes for food. I have been focused on support independent restaurants during this time, and trying to order directly from them so they can avoid cumbersome fees with third-party delivery platform. Likewise, I've been stocking my kitchen with fun and healthy food brands like Lil Bucks,Asha Pops and Rise Brewing Co to brighten up my day and help me make good eating choices daily.
My favorite place to shop? BUBBLE, a new online marketplace with carefully curated health food brands. BUBBLE gives artisan food vendors across the US a new ecommerce presence and allows them to ship straight to customers. This is so much easier for small brands compared to traditional retailers like Whole Foods who require large purchase orders and slotting fees.
Founder and CEO Jessica Young worked under Chef Gabriel Kreuther before transitioning to the food startup scene, as a founding team member of HU Kitchen in New York City, then leading product development and operations for Daily Harvest.
I caught up with Young to see what business has been like this for BUBBLE this past year and what her plans for the future entail.
What inspired you to start BUBBLE?
I saw a major problem in the market: innovative new healthy food brands were attempting to go to market, but didn’t have the right platform to launch and scale on. As someone who has been in the food industry 10+ years, I saw that it was becoming harder and harder for these brands to get in to Whole Foods or be discovered through Amazon, and saw an opportunity to launch something similar to what Etsy has done for handmade goods, and Chewy has done in the pet food space with my background in health food CPG and DTC distribution.
Why is it so important for you to support BIPOC and women-owned businesses?
At BUBBLE, we’re creating a platform that aims to disrupt a stale food industry. Large corporations have long been calling the shots and lacking transparency while doing so. BUBBLE is an inclusive marketplace that uses its platform to amplify the diverse products and voices in food. Over the summer, we pledged to fill at least 15% of our virtual space to Black-owned brands. Currently we have over 25% BIPOC-owned brands and 57% of our marketplace is women-owned. Food is drastically changing, and so are the main people making it and leading the change.
Have you helped a lot of small businesses survive the pandemic by giving them a new sales channel with BUBBLE?
The pandemic was devastating for most businesses, and we are lucky enough to have been in a place where there became more of a need for what we were offering online. At the height of the pandemic, not only did we focus on our existing vendors to ensure sales and new products were able to be brought on, we reached out to restaurants and other small, mainly brick & mortar businesses to use BUBBLE as another sales channel, encouraging them to consider creating and listing CPG products to keep sales thriving.
How has your business grown over the past year during the pandemic?
During the pandemic, we were lucky enough to have had the ability to grow our small internal team from three to six, and went from 200 to 380 live selling on BUBBLE, and a waitlist of 700+ brands! We have some surprises coming up – stay tuned.
How do you personally define wellness when it comes to food? It's a term that is thrown around a lot with no official definition.
I agree, wellness is definitely one of those buzzwords like “self-care,” that’s glorified by social media. And I think everyone kind of has their own take here. Personally, when it comes to food, wellness is not about dieting. We actually pay extra attention at BUBBLE to remove the stigma of “health food” as “diet” or “weight loss” or something that makes you “skinny.” Wellness to me is just knowing what is best for your own body and what makes you feel good. There are definitely times, pre-pandemic, at the BUBBLE office when our team goes in on an order of some greasy fast food for lunch, or days when we want to order some delish healthy eats at the corner-store vegan spot. Wellness is listening to your body and establishing a healthy balance!
How many products are you taste testing each day?
As a team, we taste test about 10-50 products per week. Pre-pandemic we used to spend Fridays taste testing with the entire team and getting everyone’s opinions. These days we have inbound samples shipping to multiple locations where our team members are, and we do calls to get everyone’s take!
What are some of your favorite new products – recent discoveries that are blowing your mind?
Some new products on BUBBLE I’ve been loving recently is Dalci’s Almond Butter Dark Chocolate Blondie Brownie it’s an indulgent chocolatey treat, yet gluten-free and sugar-free! Another treat I’ve been loving is Kalifornia Keto’s Birthday Cake Kookie Kup -- the microwaveable mug cake trend just got a revival! We also recently launched a new pet collection. I got two puppies over quarantine, and they are loving being the latest taste testers on the team: @spaghettiandmeatballpups. I have some of my new favorites and all of my holy grail products here.
Any plans to expand to new product categories – like frozen treats for summer?
Yes definitely, it’s been one of our goals to expand into the perishable category! And we hope to have that offering later this year as our customers have also been asking for this.
Would you ever consider opening a flagship brick-and-mortar location or pop-up? Or would that be antithesis to your brand?
For sure! It would be a dream to bring BUBBLE to life in a fun, interactive way.