The Rise of Subscription Commerce

Just like the flash sales and daily deal sites that clog your inbox, monthly subscription services want to fill your mailbox.

Here’s how they work:
The subscriber pays a monthly fee, usually around $10 or $20, to receive some type of box each month. The box can be filled with samples or full-size products, household names or new product introductions—you don’t know just what’s inside until you open it. Each service targets a narrowly defined customer niche, and products are carefully selected by authorities in the category. Some of the more successful services have hundreds of thousands of paid subscriptions and can charge a slotting fee to the manufacturers for the privilege of inclusion, while others pay the wholesale price to get a product in their boxes. There’s Bark Box for dog owners, Mystery Tackle Box for fishing enthusiasts, his-and-hers underwear (Manpacks and Panty by Post), and the very crowded beauty field (Test Tube, Birch Box, Beauty Bar).

Food makers have flocked to subscription commerce.
It’s a natural fit. There’s a constant parade of small, independent food artisans, and food lovers have insatiable appetites for new and different tastes. The producers gain access to specialized consumer niches, getting their products in the right hands, and consumers get the thrill of discovery with little effort or expense.

The return on investment to the food producers is a little murky; it’s not clear that subscription boxes convert enough samplers into customers. But it feels like a pure win for food lovers. 
Here are some of the more interesting food subscriptions out there:

Love With Food sends out 8+ samples in each $10 (shipping included) monthly box, skewed heavily toward high-quality snacks and treats like granola, hand-made marshmallows, herbal teas, and salsas.

KnoshBox is also heavy on the snacks. Monthly boxes are themed (Autumn Harvest, Wine Trails), and focused on small, regional American producers. The $30 boxes (shipping included) are filled with full-sized jam jars and biscotti bags.

Sometimes it seems like all the interesting food artisans live in Brooklyn or the Bay Area. Gotham Box taps into foodie envy by curating a monthly selection of new treats out of either New York or San Francisco ($20 including shipping).

Mantry‘s subscription boxes are designed to stock what they call the’ modern man’s pantry.’ The focus, they say, is on the rare, the exotic, and the functional (cuz Babes recognize a man with taste), which seems to mean a lot of hot sauce, jerky, and chocolate. If you want in, you can add your name to the waiting list.

The Turntable Kitchen offers a monthly ‘curated food and music discovery experience delivered to your door’. Each $25 (including shipping) pairing box brings a couple of old favorites on 7-inch vinyl plus a digital mix-tape of carefully chosen new artists; a recipe collection, tasting notes, and a few exotic ingredients to pair with the music.

Subscription boxes are a boon to special dieters.
Pick your allergens, singly or in combination (dairy, egg, soy, wheat, tree nuts…) and Tasterie will compile a monthly selection that’s been subjected to a rigorous screening and verification process to ensure allergen-free ingredients and processes ($20 including shipping). Paleo Pax is for followers of the fad diet that aspires to mimic the 10,000 year-old regimen of hunter-gatherers of the Paleolithic era before the advent of agriculture and domesticated animals. For a monthly $18 (plus shipping), expect to see lots of nuts, dried berries, and foods made from sea kelp.

Lost Crates is the meta-curator of curated boxes. They have assembled a lineup of online lifestyle curators and create proprietary boxes (prices vary) for Joy the Baker, the Shiksa in the Kitchen, EcoSalon, and others. A clever quiz guides you to your ‘soulmate crate.’

My Subscription Addiction is a review site for the expanding universe of subscription commerce.





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