Subscription commerce companies thinking inside the box

New companies, including some local ones, are building successful businesses selling their products by subscription.
March 7, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
From specialty foods to pet treats, new companies, including some local ones, are building successful businesses selling their products by subscription.

We caught up with busy Fresno mom Shannon Slavan-Lombre as she prepped a gourmet meal of kumquat-lime glazed tilapia with brussel sprouts. But she didn't go to the grocery store for any of the ingredients. They all came in a box, pre-measured and with step by step recipes, from a company called Blue Apron.

Shannon, who works and goes to school full time, loves making home-cooked meals for her family. But, "It was time consuming to go grocery shopping and find all those things and now three nights a week, I don't have to worry about that."

The weekly meal subscription service costs $10 per person per meal. Shannon says for her, the convenience and variety outweigh the cost, "You get to try a lot of things that necessarily you wouldn't think to make on your own."

Subscription commerce, or SubCom for short, is a growing niche in a $200 billion a year e-commerce industry. From kids' toys like Citrus Lane to jewelry like RocksBox, the possibilities are endless. Some of the most popular include Birchbox for beauty products, BarkBox for doggy treats, and Manpacks for men's underwear.

Madera-based KC Pomering says in 7 months, her G-Free Foodie box club went from 50 subscribers to 250. "We always had gluten free and dairy free. Now we have nut free, paleo, organic non GMO, top 8 allergen free, and we're looking to do a kids box as well."

Pomering says she only includes high quality, taste-tested products. Pomering says specialty diets are a growing niche -- that she expects will keep her box business booming, "Convenience, new products, things that are delicious, we have so many people say every month I feel like it's my birthday because my package gets here."


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