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Our 2021 bingo cards featured some...unforeseen squares. Lots of them. It was a year of expecting the unexpected, and still: we were surprised.
But, through the ups and the downs (and, if we’re being real, a lot of side-to-sides), we’ve emerged with an overwhelming sense of awe at what our fellow humans have created. It was a challenging year, but a good one. So, rose-colored glasses on, we present: our 2021 in review. Meet the DTC darlings who wowed us with impressive launches, drops, and collabs this year.
Our Top Brand Launches:
From 0 to 100, these brands entered the direct-to-consumer ecosystem to much acclaim in 2021.
Kicking the year off strong, Fatty15 discovered the first essential fatty acid in over 90 years -- and then sold out of its C15:0 supplement within 3 months of launch. And, it’s no wonder: C15:0 is scientifically proven to fortify our cells against age by strengthening cell membranes, boosting mitochondria, and promoting mind and body health.
The first-ever mom-founded and run formula company, designed to meet both the FDA and EU nutritional guidelines – and it doesn’t taste like chalky, chunky, clumpy water? We consider Bobbie a huge win for babies and their parents everywhere.
Widely discussed in a myriad of TQE Slack channels, MERIT is a minimalist beauty brand that just gets it. Editors of all ages, skin types, and geographic locations have raved about the brand’s hero product, The Minimalist -- but we don’t stop there. MERIT’s line is small but mighty: a good complexion stick, blush, highlighter, mascara, brow gel, and lip oil is really all you need to look -- and feel -- your best.
The luxurification of cookies is certainly a concept we can get behind. After ten years (ten!!) of research, Last Crumb introduced its indulgent and intentionally over-the-top cookies to the world via a non-traditional sales model: limited-edition drops. Track the brand to try the most insanely delicious cookies the web has to offer, and track it closely -- Last Crumb cookies sell out in seconds regularly.
The self-proclaimed “world’s best-smelling sunscreen” entered the DTC ecosystem this year -- and, with a bang! As much a retro-chic lifestyle brand as a sunscreen one, Vacation is dermatologist- formulated, reef-friendly, and good-vibe-approved . In addition to its pre-sun basics, check out the brand’s candle line, fondue set, and hovercraft (which is real -- we think).
Household essentials, but way more fun. Staff’s array of funkily-crafted goods (like hangers, plungers, and oven mitts) caught our eye for their bright colors, eccentric materials, and fun logos. It appears the party’s only just begun, so we’re excited to discover what the brand is dropping next.
It’s hard to believe that Instagram’s favorite blender launched just this year. While a newbie to the web, Beast has made quite an entrance. TQE’s own Leo Aquino gave the blender top marks for its dashing good looks, above-and-beyond blending abilities, and easy-peasy cleaning. It’s a must for all you smoothie lovers out there.
Cleaning up the candy game, Gigantic! launched its “sorta-sweet” candy bars to much fervor this year. If you trust the likes of Food & Wine and Bon Appetit for your food recs (read: if you’re normal), prepare to be pleased with these better-for-you chocolate bars. From Salted Peanut to Hazelnut Cafe, Almond Horchata, and Banana Pecan, Gigantic! is sweet -- and just the perfect amount.
A better-for-you beverage and universe of its own, Ruby offered 2021 some excitement with a new product (delicious, low and sugar-free hibiscus water) and experience (the Rubyverse, a text-and-website based game, just for fun). We’re huge fans of both the drink and the game Ruby has created.
A re-launch, if you will (and a good one at that). While Italic isn’t new, its for-everyone model is. Shoppers previously needed a membership to enjoy Italic’s at-cost offerings (the brand partners with the same factories that high-end labels use), but Italic opened its virtual doors to all shoppers earlier this year. Quality basics at the best prices – yes, please.
Product Launches We’re Still Drooling Over:
Brands we know and love launched new flavors, companion products, and brand extensions this year.
Outer Bug Shield Blanket ($125)
An innovative product that landed at precisely the right cultural moment, Outer’s Bug Shield Blanket uses permethrin technology – which is based on a natural insect repellent found in plants like chrysanthemums – to repel pesky bugs like ticks, mosquitoes, and fleas. Choose from Houndstooth, Pinstripe, or Striped Plaid and enjoy a bug-free outdoor experience.
Ritual Protein ($40)
A favorite of our Editorial Director Scott, Ritual’s Protein is soy-free, gluten-free, vegan-friendly, and formulated without GMOs, major allergens, and all the other typical protein powder funk. It’s designed to help build lean muscle and support satiety, brain health, and bone health. Blender bottles up to that.
Our Place Perfect Pot ($165)
We thought we had reached peak Our Place obsession…and then the brand really outdid itself in 2021. Made with the same ingenuity as the Always Pan, Our Place’s Perfect Pot boils, bakes, crisps, and steams to perfection – every single time. It also looks absolutely dashing sitting on your stovetop, because that’s important, too.
Feals Mints ($50)
Minty-fresh and perfectly chill-inducing, Feals’ Mints are made using pharmaceutical grade technology (called liposomal encapsulation) which mimics our cell membranes to deliver CBD directly and efficiently. With a higher absorption rate than other CBD products, Mints deliver the calming effects of CBD in a matter of minutes. They’re also easy to pop in your bag for an on-the-go sort of calm.
Golde’s Coconut Collagen Boost is the brand’s most exciting launch of the year. It’s a 100% plant-based powder that supports the body’s natural collagen production for hair, skin, and nails. Plus, it tastes like a sweet, coconut-y vanilla treat. Sprinkle 2 tsps into your favorite morning drink (a latte, matcha, or smoothie will do the trick) and enjoy.
Ghia Le Spriz x 2 (from $18)
One of our favorite non-alcoholic aperitifs (for more reasons than one) took spritz form twice this year, and you know we drank that sh*t up. Ghia dropped its original, self-described ‘Ghia-Soda-Sprig-of-Rosemary-Twist-of-Yuzu’ first, then circled back to deliver even more goodness: Ghia Ginger (the OG spritzed with the brand’s own ginger beer).
Fly by Jing Dumplings (from $39.99)
Because the brand’s all-star Sichuan Chili Crisp needed an equally-as-impressive landing pad, Fly By Jing launched Frozen Dumplings this fall – and damn, they’re good. Regardless of your choice (Pork, Shrimp, and Scallop, Pork, Shrimp, and Mushroom, or Pork XLB Soup Dumpling), Fly By Jing promises the easiest, most delicious meal your freezer will ever house.
If you’re searching for smoother skin, look no further. Cheat Sheet unclogs, smoothes, hydrates, and brightens skin – and yes, it is just one product. Oh, and did we mention it’s made to be used on your arms, chest, back, and legs? We’ll hold for applause.
Haus, the low-ABV spirits brand that ships from Sonoma County straight to your door, has long been a favorite of Team TQE. The brand’s new Grapefruit Jalapeño flavor is no exception: made of fresh grapefruit, lemon peel, Makrut lime leaf, and a blend of chilies including (of course) fresh jalapeños, it’s a harmonious balance of citrus and spice.
Snif Candles ($49)
After mastering the art of scent as it pertains to fine fragrance, Snif jumped into the candle world – and we obviously followed (Instant Karma was an instant hit with our editors). While we haven’t a clue what Snif is cooking up next, we know one thing for certain: it’s sure to smell really, really good.
Brightland Honeys ($42)
After exposing the fraudulent practices of the olive oil industry, Brightland has added a new focus to its real and raw portfolio: honey. The brand’s California Orange Blossom Honey and Kauai Wildflower Honey are better, truer, family-run alternatives to a pantry staple that’s often filled with syrups and sugars.
AMASS Afterdream ($59.90)
In case you forgot where TQE was founded, we’re here to remind you with one of our favorite, most LA-sounding launches of 2021: a THC, CBD, and Delta-8-infused non-alcoholic spirit from AMASS. Yes those are a lot of letters, and yes, we’ll narrow it down to just three: y-u-m. With notes of mint, rosemary, lemon peel, and sumac, Afterdream leaves your taste buds tingly and your mind mellow.
Better Together: The Best Collabs Of The Year
Some of our favorite companies teamed up to co-brand products – and experiences – that felt just right.
A summery staple, LUSH is an Omakase Berry-infused family-farm-to-table vinegar that boasts of a ‘beautiful aroma’ and ‘exceptional sweetness.’ A collab between Brightland (who we tipped our caps to above) and Oishii (the first-of-its-kind indoor vertical strawberry farm), LUSH is currently sold out – but its waitlist is open.
A scentsational project by two of our favorite at-home brands, these shower mists offer a morning boost (featuring the likes of ginger, lime, and sweet orange) and evening wind-down (courtesy of bergamot and Bulgarian lavender essential oils). And, because you’ve grown to expect nothing but the very best from both brands, rest assured that this collab is non-toxic, plant-based, vegan, and cruelty-free.
Because your natural remedies deserve the perfect carrying-case: Hilma and Cadence teamed up on this limited-edition honeycomb of three Cadence capsules and Hilma Outdoor Essentials (indoor/outdoor support, upset stomach relief, or tension relief) to go inside. Travel lightly, smartly, and eco-friendly with this collab.
When cozy meets cozier (we’ll let you decide who’s who), you’re left with a line of wearable vegan fur blankets. Yes, the ‘Schleepy’ is a real thing endorsed by Netflix and yes, you do need one (or two, or three – for laundry day, of course).
A collab for you and your plants: The Sill teamed up with the world’s cleanest and easiest humidifier, Canopy, to create three home fragrances (Forest, Greenhouse, and Flower Market) and three diffusion pucks worthy of your space. Inhale and enjoy – each scent is vegan, cruelty-free, and free from parabens and phthalates.
It’s been a landmark year for the DTC space, and we’re eager to see what 2022 brings. From our team to you and yours: happy new year!