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An apparel company and a meal delivery company are joining forces with a focus on runners. A new partnership between Asics and Freshly shows how companies can team up to hone in on a particular audience.
The details: Through the partnership, Asics and Freshly will curate a custom selection of three meal plans that are built to support performance and recovery for runners. Designed by Freshly’s in-house nutritionist, the options include pre-race meals focused on carbs, post-race meals with moderate levels of protein to recharge and sustainable wellness meals that are “carb- and calorie-conscious,” with 20 grams of protein or more per serving. The meals are being offered for a limited time as part of Freshly's weekly subscriptions, which start at $8.99 per meal.
How it works: Runners pick a plan that best fits their training or race needs. Then, they receive a cart that is auto-populated with the curated food items, and the prepared ingredients are delivered. The companies timed the rollout with race season. So the idea is to provide meals with whole food ingredients, while allowing runners to save time on meal prep.
Why it’s interesting: On the surface, these companies might not appear to be a natural fit. After all, one is focused on food, while another is focused on shoes and clothing. Freshly aims to reach a wide customer base, while Asics has a focus around runners and walkers. But there are ways in which these audiences overlap. By working with Asics, Freshly can reach a group that might be a ready fit for its offering. Asics' brand is intertwined with running, so partnering with the brand allows Freshly to reach a group that is not only deeply engaged in that activity, but also identifies with it.
"Our goal at Freshly is to provide convenient and healthy meals to our customers that meet the demands of their varied routines and schedules," said Freshly VP of B2B Tom Futch, in a statement. "We know that the vast majority of our subscriber base values an active lifestyle, so we're thrilled to be working with one of the biggest names in running to offer an effortless way to fuel up and recover this training season."
By training the focus on runners, the companies found that their offerings each represent different components of what that audience needs to be successful. Asics can provide the right gear. Freshly can provide the right food. It’s a vertical partnership of sorts, with the whole customer as the focus, rather than a business.
Asics has strong ties to this community through the products it sells and the relationships it maintains with them. Offering a connection to meals is one more way it can demonstrate how it offers products optimized for this specific activity. The meal plans are one version of Asics recommending a nutritionist.
"Our partnership with Freshly allows us to deliver a more complete and personalized experience for walkers, joggers and runners through nutritious meals designed for active lifestyles,” said Joe Pace, head of business development at Asics. “We're excited to continue supporting our community in all aspects of their fitness journeys and tasty, healthy food is essential on the path to a sound mind and sound body."
In turn, Freshly’s direct-to-consumer approach brings a few advantages for these consumers. Curating the offerings provides a more personalized experience when it comes to meal selection, while also cutting out the choice that can overwhelm. A subscription offering creates a regular cadence so that these selections show up at a predictable clip, while replenishing supply at a fixed price. Delivery, in turn, offers the convenience that comes with meals showing up at a doorstep.
As it happens, the audience seems well-chosen for this partnership by its very nature. Runners are perhaps the definition of an on-the-go constituency. Workout regimens require predictability in schedules. At the same time, certain product specifications are necessary for nutrition and recovery. It’s a group that can take the advantages of ecommerce in stride.
What it shows: For companies, the data, packaging and payment approaches available through online shopping offer unique ways to reach customers in a way that best fits their lives. When considering how to match audiences and products, get more granular. New opportunities will follow.
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The job market continues to hum.
The labor market continued to show strength to start 2023, as the monthly jobs report posted big numbers.
Key data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly jobs report:
- Unemployment fell to 3.4%, ticking down from 3.5% in December to remain at historic lows.
- The economy added jobs to the tune of 517,000, which bested the 2022 average of 401,000.
- Average hourly wages rose by $0.10, marking year-over-year growth of 4.4%.
The Current’s view: The labor market continues to be an economic outlier. While there are signs of consumer pullback and belt-tightening among tech companies and retailers after months of high inflation, the job picture remains bright. While tech companies and some retailers are cutting back markedly, there are few signs of the widespread “pain” that economists predicted in this indicator of the economy.
What brands and retailers are thinking: Jobs are a major indicator of demand, and the labor market continues to hum along. That means the consumer pullback is tied to choices about discretionary spending and holding off on certain purchases in the face of high prices, moreso than being unable to afford items altogether.
What the Fed is thinking: Here’s more evidence that a soft landing might be possible. The Fed has been raising interest rates to bring down inflation. There is risk that this will slow down the economy, including employment. There was some slowing in job growth in December, but this report indicates labor market softening still hasn’t happened for a sustained period, even as inflation is cooling. After the central bank scaled back its latest interest rate hike to 0.25% on Wednesday, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said he sees a “path” to bringing down inflation without a significant rise in unemployment. Here’s one more piece of data to bolster that belief.
Keep in mind: The labor market is still out of balance between supply and demand. This report shows a big rise in jobs and the labor force participation rate remaining the same. Job openings actually increased in December, the Labor Department found. So there a still the case. Eventually, it will likely have to come into balance. But given the unpredictability of this economic era, it’s tough to know when, or even how.