The Best Direct-to-Consumer Brands of 2019

The Growth of DTC Brands

When pondering the most radical transformation in retail over the last ten years, what comes to mind? Many praise technology because, well, it’s true. You can’t understate the impact of Amazon, social media, and smart devices on consumer behavior. But just as important has been the direct-to-consumerization of everything.

 

Unfamiliar with the “Direct-to-Consumer” (also called DTC or D2C) movement? The phrase describes the stampede of hip, digital-first brands selling everyday items online that you used to buy at a store or from a third party wholesaler. Beyond a stunning social media presence, DTC brands offer greater convenience, typically via a subscription model that puts your orders on autopilot and ships them directly to your door. Products range from fresh dog food to underwear, produce boxes to contact lenses, and just about everything in between.

 

With 8 or 9 figure revenues and billion-dollar acquisitions, many popular DTC brands are disrupting their industry. For example, Gillette’s share of the U.S. men’s razor market fell from 70% to 54% between 2010 and 2016 — precisely the same time brands such as Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s carved out their own sizable slices of the pie. Unilever then responded by purchasing Dollar Shave Cub for a cool billion (with a “b”). Meanwhile, the same trend of rapid disruption and acquisition took hold beyond just shaving and across a wide variety of product categories.

 

So who are the leading DTC brands, you ask? We put together a Top 40 list. Check it out below:

 

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Top 40 Direct-to-Consumer Brands

Scroll down to explore the best DTC brands of 2019, and learn the technical details behind the process we engineered to rank them. Spoiler alert: it involved scoring based on metrics such as total funding, monthly web traffic, and social follower counts, among other proxies for brand awareness.

Hims Health and telemedicine

Rx meds for hair loss, ED, cold sores, & more.
$197m San Francisco
Keeps Health and telemedicine

Men's hair loss meds prescribed online.
$22.8m NYC
Nurx Health and telemedicine

Online birth control and STI testing for women.
$93.4m San Francisco
Roman (Ro) Health and telemedicine

Prescriptions for men's hair loss, ED, & more.
$176.1m
NYC
Waldo Health and telemedicine

Affordable daily contact lens subscription.
$6.8m
London
Blink Health and telemedicine

Online pharmacy for prescription meds.
$165m NYC
Rory Health and telemedicine

Menopause treatments for women.
$176.1m NYC
Zero Health and telemedicine

Anti-smoking gum.
$176.1m NYC
Cove Health and telemedicine

Migraine relief treatment.
$22.8m NYC
Hubble Health and telemedicine

Affordable daily contact lens subscription.
$73.7m NYC
Lemonaid Health and telemedicine

Online pharmacy for prescription meds.
$20.7m
San Francisco
Hers Health and telemedicine

Prescription birth control, anxiety meds, and acne treatments for women.
$197m San Francisco
Curology Personal hygiene and care

Personalized prescription acne treatment .
$22.6m San Diego
Billie Personal hygiene and care

Women's razor blade and shave subscription.
$35m NYC
Lola Personal hygiene and care

100% organic cotton tampons.
$35.2m NYC
Quip Personal hygiene and care

Sleek and portable electric toothbrushes.
$62.2m NYC
Aloha Diet and nutrition

Organic plant-based protein snacks.
$4.5m NYC
Blue Apron Diet and nutrition

Gourmet meal delivery for easy at-home cooking.
$199.4m NYC
Drizly Diet and nutrition

Alcohol delivery in 60 minutes or less.
$69.6m Boston
Food52 Diet and nutrition

Award-winning recipes and kitchenware.
$13.3m NYC
Graze Diet and nutrition

Deliciously nutritious snack boxes.
Acquired by Unilever London
Grove Collaborative Diet and nutrition

Marketplace for healthier home essentials.
$165.8m San Francisco
Hint Water Diet and nutrition

Fruit infused bottled water.
$6.8m San Francisco
Home Chef Diet and nutrition

Fresh meal kit delivery once a week.
Acquired by Kroger Chicago
Hungry Harvest Diet and nutrition

Farm to doorstep produce delivery.
$.5m Baltimore
Imperfect Produce Diet and nutrition

Produce subscription box for 30% less than stores.
$47.1m San Francisco
Natural Force Diet and nutrition

Whole food nutrition products.
Unknown Jacksonville
Noble Brewer Diet and nutrition

The best homebrewed beers delivered to you.
Unknown Oakland
Noom Diet and nutrition

Weight-loss app for building healthier habits.
$114.7m NYC
Hungry Root Diet and nutrition

Healthy delivered meals ready to eat in <10 minutes.
$35.4m NYC
Nootrobox Diet and nutrition

Supplements that support brain and body function.
$2.6m San Francisco
Ollie Diet and nutrition

Fresh dog food subscription service.
$17m NYC
Ora Diet and nutrition

Nutritious, plant-based health supplements.
Unknown San Diego
Pact Coffee Diet and nutrition

Premium coffee delivered to your home or office.
$2.3m London
Paleo Treats Diet and nutrition

Paleo dessert subscriptions.
Unknown San Diego
Pet Plate Diet and nutrition

Fresh dog food subscription service.
$4m NYC
Ritual Diet and nutrition

Personalized vitamin formulations.
$40.5m Los Angeles
Thrive Market Diet and nutrition

Members-only market for organic goods.
$161.9m Los Angeles
Freshly Diet and nutrition

Chef-cooked, healthy meal delivery.
$107m NYC

How did we come up with this list of DTC brands?

With so many Direct-to-Consumer companies out there, we needed a framework to choose only 40. We wanted to be objective and name the most legitimate and likely to stick around for the long haul. Starting by gathering a fairly comprehensive list of well-known DTC companies we knew personally or could find in public databases like Crunchbase and CBinsights (excluding fashion, for now), we scored them based on 5 key empirical metrics. We then assigned each of those core metrics a weight (out of 100% total) based on the strength of the signal:

 

  • Venture capital funding – 25%
  • Website’s monthly unique visitors – 25%
  • Instagram – 16.67%
  • Facebook – 16.67%
  • Twitter – 16.67%

 

Next we needed to calculate individual scores between 1 and 10 for each key metric. So we established ranges for each KPI with evenly-tiered point values. As an example, here’s how we assigned points for venture funding:

 

  • 1 point for funding <$5,000,000
  • 2 points for $5,000,000 – $20,000,000
  • 3 points for $20,000,000 – $35,000,000
  • 4 points for  $35,000,000 – $50,000,000
  • 5 points for $50,000,000 – $65,000,000
  • 6 points for $65,000,000 – $80,000,000
  • 7 points for  $80,000,000 – $95,000,000
  • 8 points for $95,000,000 – $110,000,000
  • 9 points  for $110,000,000 – $125,000,000
  • 10 points – $125,000,000+

 

For example, a DTC brand with $42 million in funding would score a 4. After doing this for all five metrics, we calculated the score using the formula below:

 

Overall score = (VC Funding Score*.25) + (Unique_visitors_score*.25) + ( Instagram_followers_score*.167) + (Facebook_followers_score*.167) + (Twitter_followers_score*.167)

And what exactly defines a “Direct-to-Consumer Brand”?

So is any company that delivers technically “Direct to consumer”? Not exactly. Let’s take a step back and fully define what we mean by a “DTC brand”. In the traditional value chain for retailers, brands managed everything from design, production and marketing before passing the baton to larger retailers for distribution and sales. As an example, most tampon producers used to only sell to retailers like brick and mortar pharmacies or on third party marketplaces like Amazon. These third party intermediaries were the only way brands knew how to sell to their end customer.

 

Direct-to-Consumer brands are different because they take on the distribution and sales of their product themselves. They opt not to pass the baton, which not only gives brands more control of the customer journey, but also increases profits. Over time, it tends to be more efficient for brands to take on the work themselves. The consumer benefits because DTC companies often pass on these savings to their customers in the form of lower prices, or by subsidizing a better experience (i.e. free shipping, introductory offers, etc.). In general, it’s a win for consumers, and presents a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs.

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