How industry consolidation affects you: eyeglasses

Luxottica is in the news in the digital realm right now for its forthcoming collaboration with Google on Glass-wear.

Google went straight to the top on this one, as Luxottica is by far the industry leader in eyewear. The company makes eyewear under 27 different brand names, for both its own brands, such as Ray-Ban and Oakley, and a variety of high-profile licensees like Chanel and Prada.

Luxottica has the market pretty well covered on the retail side, too: if you’ve ever set foot in a Lenscrafters, Pearle Vision or Sunglass Hut, you’re on their turf. The company also takes care of the eyeglasses at Sears and Target, among others.

In total, Luxottica has roughly 80% of the major eyewear brands under its control. Main competitor Safilo has an impressive portfolio of licensing partners but a much smaller footprint and fewer known in-house brands.

Me, I’ve been wearing American-made Bevel glasses of late, and independent ic! berlins before that. But it’s interesting to know that when I made a big switch a number of years ago from Oliver Peoples to Paul Smith, I wasn’t really changing much of anything.

This is the latest in a series of summaries of industries whose corporate consolidation has led to a small number of players controlling the majority of a sector, creating oligopolies in the mass market. Previously

Tea

A friend of mine asked about tea, and in answering, I realized I drink quite a lot of tea and have discovered some very good things to drink, which I thought I’d share here.

Hot

I drink hot tea sporadically for enjoyment and all the time when I’m sick. And my hot tea appreciation reached its apex with Mighty Leaf tea. They’re all delicious. The organic mint melange is in my house right now. I’ve always enjoyed Tazo Calm, which you can get at Starbucks and which tastes great with honey instead of sugar.I’m also on a simple chamomile kick right now. Twinings is fine at this. (My kids prefer chamomile, too, and I’d love to find a 50- or 100-pack of chamomile tea bags. For now I’m buying the Twinings 20-packs.)

And, frankly, ordinary black tea is underrated. A 12-oz Lipton’s with honey–keep going with the honey, a little bit more, no seriously, ok that’s enough–is pretty great in its own right, even in decaf. You’ve probably never even tried it.

Iced

We keep a regular supply of Honest Tea in the house. The basic Honest Lemon Black is my favorite. It’s the right amount of sweet, although it’s sweeter than it used to be, before Coke bought the company out and made it more mass, but it still has 40% the sugar profile of a Snapple and fully organic. I buy it by the case. I also enjoy the peach white tea on occasion, and several of the esoteric versions they sold a decade ago in glass bottles that are now hard to find, like their peppermint tea.

Most other bottled and canned iced tea is horrifically sweet. The best ones actually shy away from being “tea” and include elements of fruit juice. One exception to this is Arizona’s Diet Green Tea with Ginseng, which is a terrific lunch accompaniment.

On the sweet but awesome side, try some Turkey Hill Orange Tea. I buy the diet decaf which is as good as the regular. It’s made with real orange juice and an embarrassing amount of sweetener, and if no one’s looking, I can drink a half-gallon of it in pretty much one sitting. Every person I’ve introduced it to–dating back to 1994, in my college apartment–has become addicted to it, most recently my parents, who otherwise avoid artificial sweeteners. It’s like umami tea.

As a counterpoint, it’s wonderful if you have the determination to home-brew iced tea. I say determination because it’s incredibly unsatisfying: you’ll want some tea, so you’ll heat up a lot of water, which takes a long time, then pour it into a pitcher with half a dozen teabags, which makes you yearn for it, only now you have a quart of hot tea that you have to chill for an hour before you can drink it. If you’re responsible enough to brew it the night before, then it’s tasty. I’ve found moderate success with an assortment of “brewed iced tea” brands, none of which were special enough to stay in memory.

Time to get something to drink.