Interesting Finds: Issue #27

Face Masks, Peanut Butter, Ford, Target and Tapioca Balls

Each week, I curate and spotlight the most curious content I find. This week covers the best face masks, excessive peanut butter, Ford’s design chops, Target and Space vs. Tapioca Balls.

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Recommended Face Masks

Despite a surge in our rate of vaccinations, wearing face masks to protect ourselves (and others) against COVID19 will be a reality for quite some time. Wirecutter just published an updated guide to face masks: Where to Buy N95s, KN95s, and Surgical-Style Masks You Can Trust.

Not only will we continue to track down legitimate respirators and masks, and reliable retailers that sell them, but we’ll also be testing the masks for fit, comfort, and (for those who want to layer up) compatibility with our cloth-mask picks. So far, we’ve consulted five scientists, five manufacturers, three importers, two retailers, an e-commerce expert, and two government agencies, and we’ve also tried on 16 respirators and other disposable masks ourselves. See what might work for you, adjust the fit as best you can, and chances are, you’ll end up with a mask you can feel confident wearing for the times you need it most.

Two of their best options:

  1. N95 that’s got a weird shape but still comfortable: Kimberly-Clark N95 Pouch Respirator ($1.16 each)

  2. KN95 that’s still FDA approved: Powecom KN95 Earloop ($1.00) and Headband ($1.15).

Don’t know the difference between N95 vs KN95? From Popular Science:

KN95s are closely related to N95s, but only the latter is approved for use in medical settings in the U.S., and the reasoning is pretty simple: N95s are the U.S. standard, while KN95s are the Chinese standard for these close-fitting filtration devices. Both are rated to filter out 95 percent of very small particles.

Due to the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the U.S. at the start of the pandemic, the CDC has authorized the use of KN95 masks as a suitable alternative for N95 masks. However, a number of hospitals and other KN95 wearers have pointed out some discrepancies in quality.

KN95 masks work similarly to N95 masks, but they aren't regulated by the same organizations. This has led to some questions about the efficacy of KN95 masks in surgical settings.

So while only N95 are approved for medical settings in this country, a good quality KN95 should be relatively equivalent for most of us for the type of protection settings we’re talking about.

Peanut Butter + Peanut Butter

In their question to prove that there’s a limit to how much one can love peanut butter, Hershey’s is making a chocolate-free, all peanut butter cups 👎.

The New Ford Bronco

Back in 2004, Ford created a concept version of its popular Bronco model:

From Driving Line’s Not Ford’s First Rodeo: The 2004 Retro Bronco That Never Happened:

The story of this take on a reborn Bronco goes back to 2004 at that year's North American International Auto Show. Traveling back in time and a decade in half, you'll find that Ford was all in on retro style. Not only was its unabashedly throwback Ford GT getting tons of attention, the dramatically re-designed and heritage inspired 2005 Mustang was about to hit the market as well.

With the 2004 Bronco Concept, the idea was to take that same retro flavor and apply it to Ford's SUV line, reviving the popular 4x4 that was last sold in 1996. As you can clearly see from the shape, the 2004 Bronco was heavily inspired by the iconic first generation model of the '60s and '70s.

Fast forward 17 years later, Ford has brought to production a re-design that carries on the legacy from that concept from ‘04.

Sixty Six Mag has a great piece on the design process and interview with Paul Wraith, the head of design. Here’s one nugget:

“How could we make [customers’] lives a little bit better, easier, more fulfilling?” Paul Wraith says. “This approach was quite different than the sort of classic car design school of sit down at a drawing board and knock out an amazing rendering.” Photo courtesy of Ford

I also love this part about the complexity of the door as it highlights how nuanced, and impactful, most design decisions on on delightful products:

“The door needs to start at a point on the vehicle that is comfortable to get your feet in and out but also has a relationship to the crash behavior of the vehicle because it’s attached to the A post, which is attached to the A pillar. The back of the door is driven by your relationship to side impact, ingress, and egress. So there’s a lot of things going on in the door. It’s got its own points of view about life and how it wants to be. And then you take it off, away from its home, and you put it into the rear of the vehicle where it, up until now, it hadn’t a good place to go to be, you know? What was it doing there?

“So, yeah, it’s complicated.”

Read the full piece here.

Molotov Cocktails

I’m familiar about Molotov Cocktails only from movies and Call of Duty. In the latest issue of Quartz Weekly Obsession, they cover the interesting history of this weapon.

Sometimes called bottle bombs, petrol bombs, or the poor man’s grenade, Molotov cocktails have become the weapon of choice for protesters and revolutionaries, as well as the average petty arsonist. In recent times, the incendiaries have been hurled by Hong Kongers fighting to retain the city’s independence, pro-choice demonstrators in Mexico City, French protesters clashing with police over a security law, and Iraqis decrying government corruption, to name just a few.

Origin of the name:

But it wasn’t until 1939 that the Molotov cocktail got its name. The non-aggression pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union gave Russia control of Finland. That winter, the Soviets invaded and began air strikes on the country, though minister of foreign affairs Vyacheslav Molotov assured Russian radio listeners that the USSR was dropping humanitarian aid, not bombs. Cheeky Finns called these airborne deliveries “Molotov’s picnic baskets” and vowed to respond with “Molotov cocktails.”

Want the full skinny? Read the full Quartz Weekly Obsession.

Target Like Woah

Per the Wall Street Journal, retailer Target is absolutely crushing it with a 20% jump in sales and a claimed $9 billion cannibalized from competitors:

Target said Tuesday that holiday sales rose solidly, capping off a year when the Minneapolis-based retailer increased revenue by more than it had in the previous 11 years combined.

Comparable sales, those from stores and digital channels operating for at least 12 months, rose nearly 21% in the fiscal quarter ended Jan. 30, boosted by strong demand for online services, including same-day order pickup and delivery. For the full fiscal year, revenue hit $93.6 billion, a 20% increase.

[…]

Target, along with many big-box retailers, remained open in the early days of the pandemic while department stores and apparel retailers had to close to in-store shoppers. Target said Tuesday that it estimates it gained around $9 billion in sales from competitors.

How the heck did it do this amidst a pandemic against Amazon who seems unstoppable in e-commerce? As covered by WWD, Target’s investments over the years are paying off through:

  1. Omnichannel fulfillment: Consumers value flexibility of omni-channel shopping, and in particular, “buy online, pickup in store” is more cost effective as it makers the buyer do the labor of picking and packing.

  2. Better product mix than competitors: Target is only 20% groceries whereas Costco and Walmart are 60%. More appeal to wider breadth of shoppers due to more products and a better mix of margins.

  3. Cost efficient real estate: Target has focused on smaller retail footprints that are most cost effective than say Walmart’s big box “supercenters”.

  4. Same day delivery: Their same-day delivery and pickup options are up 700% year over year and represent a differentiator particularly against Amazon where true same day is a mixed bag.

Instacart vs Space

Instacart just raised more money at a staggering valuation of $39 billion. There’s only one other private US company worth more: SpaceX at $74 billion. They are oddly close in valuation given one is enabling us to explore the universe and the other delivers organic milk and tapioca balls to my doorstep 🤔.

Instacart is being valued at $39 billion in a new round of funding that will add $265 million to the grocery delivery company’s coffers. It’s the second time Instacart’s valuation has doubled since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Less than five months ago, Instacart raised $200 million in a deal that valued it at $17.7 billion. 

According to Pitchbook, Instacart is now the second largest U.S.-based unicorn, behind SpaceX, Elon Musk’s space start-up that’s valued at $74 billion.