Chapter 1

Meet the disruptors

Bloom & Wild

The flower subscription brand’s annual sales broke through the £100m barrier during the pandemic thanks to its innovative business model and sophisticated use of technology and data.

Founded in 2013 by friends Aron Gelbard and Ben Stanway, Bloom & Wild has sought to fill a niche for a superior-branded proposition in a market historically dominated by supermarkets.

Bloom & Wild’s most famous product is its letterbox bouquets, removing the need for customers to be at home.
By working with partner growers in Kenya that ship directly to the UK, Bloom & Wild has slashed the time from harvesting to delivery, meaning flowers stay fresher for longer.

“We’re trying to be the company that people love and trust in the flower space, and if we can increase touchpoints where they can get to know us, then all the better,” Gelbard told Retail Week in an interview last year.

  • Bloom & Wild raised funds of £105m in 2021, allowing it to acquire French rival Bergamotte and Dutch competitor Bloomon
  • The business employs an almost 100-strong tech team, including six data scientists

Launched in the US in early 2020 – and in the UK in November of that year – as an alternative to Amazon, is an online bookshop with a mission to financially support independent booksellers.

Customers ordering through the website can choose a specific local bookshop to support, which then receives 30% of the cover price of all their orders for a year. Otherwise, 10% of the cover price of each order goes into an earnings pool that is evenly distributed among participating independent bookshops each month. UK managing director Nicole Vanderbilt – Etsy’s former vice-president for international – says its target customer is someone who cares about the fate of their local high street and small businesses, both in their community and across the UK.

“Our customers are readers who understand and believe in the importance of independent bookshops, and are keen to support them even when shopping online,” she adds.

  • More than £2m has been raised for independent bookshops since the launch of the platform
  • is a registered B-Corp, meaning it is verified to meet high levels of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability

Bower Collective

Bower Collective is one of a new breed of ethical brands selling household and personal care products in reusable packaging direct to the consumer via subscription. It was launched in January 2020 via tech investment firm Founders Factory and scaled through its start-up accelerator.

Through smart use of AI and data, the company is able to accurately predict what products customers will need and when they will need them replaced.

Currently Bower Collective has around 30,000 subscribers after just two years of trading. Its target customers are what co-founder and chief executive Marcus Hill describes as “conscious consumers” who are passionate about tackling plastic waste and creating a more sustainable home.

“It is these people, our customers, that are having the impact and we are here to help them” he says.

  • Bower Collective’s revenue has grown by 20% month on month since its launch in January 2020
  • With more than 2,000 Trustpilot reviews, the brand has a rating of 4.8 out of five


Established in Sweden in 2019, Estrid provides affordable, quality vegan razors for women and men delivered directly to their doors. Its products are completely free from any animal byproducts and the business only works with suppliers and third parties that do not test on animals.

The business is driven by a determination to tackle stereotypes around female body hair and to challenge gender-based discriminatory pricing.

It has quickly built up a loyal following on social media, with 396,000 followers on TikTok and 170,000 followers on Instagram.

“As a company and brand, we wish to use our platforms to share content that supports our values and spreads joy to our community” says co-founder Amanda Westerbom.

“Everyone has body hair. And therefore Estrid is for everyone, independent of why and where they shave, who they are and how they choose to identify themselves.”

  • Estrid is now available in 12 different markets
  • The business raised €15m (£12.5m) in December 2020 to fund its further expansion


As a 23-year-old supplier of traditional grocery products, Innocent may look out of place in a list of largely digital-native brands. But the company is still considered a trailblazer in ethical trading, as well as providing an object lesson in the successful use of social media to build loyalty.

Now majority-owned by Coca-Cola, Innocent is in the process of developing a cutting-edge carbon-neutral drinks factory in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, known as ‘The Blender’. Once complete, Innocent will be able to make all its drinks under one roof as part of its target to be carbon-neutral by 2025.

The business has also built a reputation as a pioneer in using social media to build customer engagement and loyalty, striking a balance between humour and sharing product news and content.

Innocent was founded in 1998 by Richard Reed, Adam Balon and Jon Wright, and sold to Coca-Cola in 2013.

  • Innocent is investing €223m (£188m) in building its new factory, The Blender
  • The brand has almost 300,000 followers on Twitter and 139,000 followers on Instagram

Pasta Evangelists

The pasta subscription service founded in 2016 has delivered an explosion in revenues in recent years, driven by the start of the pandemic when people were ordered to stay at home. Turnover has jumped from £79,000 in 2017 to more than £21m in 2021.

Customers can order from a weekly menu of 15 recipes, which are delivered chilled to their door on the day of their choosing. Prices start at around £6.50 a meal with the option to create bespoke weekly menus.

The business is increasingly pursuing a multichannel approach, having struck distribution deals with supermarkets Ocado and M&S, and established a takeaway service through Deliveroo.

“We want our customers to recognise the fresh, artisan nature of our pasta: unlike ostensibly fresh pasta sold in supermarkets, our products are artisanally – rather than industrially – made” says co-founder and chief marketing officer Finn Lagun.

  • In 2022 Pasta Evangelists aims to double its 2021 revenues to around £40m
  • It now has more than 20 dark kitchens in London, Bristol, Manchester and Reading


Fast-growing fashion business Seasalt is showing that stores can still play a critical role in delivering a great customer experience and driving loyalty across all channels.

Originally founded as a single shop in 1981 by the Chadwick family, called General Clothing Stores, it was extended into a fashion brand by brothers Leigh, Neil and David in 2001. All three are still involved in the business today. Current chief executive Paul Hayes is the first non-family member to lead the company.

Seasalt says its stores offer “the ultimate Seasalt brand experience for customers” and are a vital way of recruiting and retaining consumers. Stores also act as community hubs on the high street, with events and personal styling appointments available.

The retailer’s financial performance was hit by store closures during the pandemic, but strong growth online has helped to compensate. Total sales fell 7.4% to £70m in the year ending January 2021, with store sales down 57% and online up 82%.

Seasalt has invested heavily in its online business in recent years. It launched new websites for Ireland and the rest of the world in 2020 and relaunched its core UK site in July 2021.

The Cornish retailer plays heavily on its coastal heritage and believes its creativity sets it apart from other fashion brands. “We are passionate about our home in Cornwall and always stay true to our distinctive aesthetic” says chief marketing officer Amy Thom.

Seasalt says its purpose is to inspire women of all ages to dress with creativity and confidence. It aims to place thoughtful design, quality and versatility ahead of a fast-fashion appro

Skin + Me

The DTC platform Skin + Me aims to democratise dermatology and take on the beauty giants with personalised skincare solutions.

Launched in 2020, Skin + Me is considered to be at the forefront of personalisation technology. Customers receive an online consultation with a dermatologist who then creates a solution for their specific skin needs.

Skin + Me initially focused on creating solutions for women in their 20s and 30s for whom persistent skin issues are commonplace.

“As we’ve grown and our customer base has increased so rapidly, it’s been amazing to see how the concept of personalised skincare has caught the attention of a much wider demographic than we first expected,” says co-founder and chief customer officer Rachel Jones.

“We now have customers ranging from 17 to over 70, with a wide range of skin goals, who are seeing incredible results.”

  • In the past year, revenue at Skin + Me grew by more than 500%
  • The company has received more than 2,000 five-star Trustpilot reviews, with an average score of 4.6

Who Gives a Crap

Toilet roll subscription service Who Gives a Crap was launched in 2012 via a crowdfunding campaign and delivered its first product in March 2013.

Ethics are at the heart of the business proposition. Founders Simon Griffiths, Jehan Ratnatunga and Danny Alexander launched the business when they learnt that 2.4 billion people globally have no access to a toilet, meaning that around 289,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation.

Half of the company’s profits are used to help build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world.

The product range now spans tissues, toilet rolls and dream cloths – a kitchen towel substitute. Customers can either make a one-off purchase or subscribe and choose their order frequency, with toilet roll subscriptions starting at around £28 for 24 rolls.

  • Who Gives a Crap raised funds for the first time in September, clinching AUS$41.5m (£26.3m) from a consortium of investors led by Verlinvest. Strategic investors include former Unilever chief executive and sustainability expert Paul Polman
  • Its products are 100% plastic-free