Exclusive interview: Making healthy snack choices with graze
Snacking healthier is getting easier nowadays with graze, a subscription box that also sells its products in stores. grazers get healthy snacks delivered to their door via an online subscription that provides customized snack boxes for each customer using a unique taste algorithm, and they can choose and rate snacks from a selection of over 100 snack boxes. Boxes are sent to customers by mail, with no need to sign at home or work.
graze snacks are now available at select retail locations, as well – having launched into US retail in October with 3,500 locations, graze will soon be available in 8,500 locations. The snacks can be purchased at Walgreens, Big Y, ShopRite and Hannaford and the list is growing. The company itself was started in the UK in 2008, by the developers and logistics experts bechind the technology that powered LoveFilm (the equivalent of Netflix).
We recently got the chance to talk to Anthony Fletcher, CEO of graze, about the company's origins and how graze works.
Liz Parker: How did you get involved in graze, as you were not one of the original founders?
Anthony Fletcher: After achieving a first class Masters in Chemistry from Oxford and carrying out radio pharmaceutical research at Princeton University, I decided I wanted to take my passion for technology and data and apply it to growing UK businesses. In 2004, I approached the founders of Innocent drinks and went on to head up their innovation department, playing a key role in the sale to Coca-Cola enterprises.
After being sent a graze prototype, I spotted my next opportunity. I sought out the factory and literally knocked on the door and asked for a job. Two days later, I was driving the marketing team.
LP: How does the “unique taste algorithm” work – do consumers put in their taste preferences on the website? Is each box’s contents chosen by a computer, or by a real person?
AF: The graze algorithm is quite special because it takes into account all of the customer's taste preferences, yet is also designed to give them as much variety and as many new snacks to discover as possible. First, they go into their account to rate the snacks. Everything is defaulted to "try" but they can choose to 'trash' any items they never want to receive and rate snacks that look tasty as 'like' or 'love'. Once they have received their box and tasted the snacks handpicked for them, they are able to go back and adjust the rating as often as they like. Also, customers can input their dietary preferences 'vegetarian' or 'vegan,' and then our algorithm will filter these items to allow the customers to easily "trash" anything that doesn't meet their dietary needs. Our algorithm works its magic to handpick the snacks each customer is most likely to enjoy! (The snacks are chosen by a computer but the algorithm was designed and is continuously enhanced by real people.)
LP: What is the difference between purchasing Graze snacks at a brick and mortar retailer (ie, Walgreens) vs. buying them on the website?
AF: The beauty of graze is all of the different ways our customers are able to enjoy our products. We offer different ways to purchase graze snacks to fit our customers' lifestyles and needs of the moment. Our subscription option is great for those who look forward to receiving a regular delivery of snacks and exploring new flavors. The graze shop is our e-commerce site which allows customers to buy snacks and ingredients à la carte which is perfect for someone who want to try a specific graze snack or buy more of their favorites. Our e-commerce site offers larger quantities with multipacks and sharing bags which is perfect for stocking up! And finally we sell graze snacks in brick and mortar stores which is a great option for people looking to satisfy their snacking needs while on-the-go. The benefit about having a multichannel business is knowing what consumers love online, and then we can select the top-rated snacks to sell in stores.
LP: What are some of the most popular Graze snacks that consumers choose for their boxes?
AF: We've noticed our consumers have a pretty big sweet tooth! Our better-for-you deconstructed dessert snacks are quite popular, such as our 'dark chocolate cherry tart' and 'salted caramel and chocolate cookie.' Also, our 'veggie protein power' and 'punchy protein nuts' are also very popular for those looking for that wholesome protein boost.
LP: Graze has a few options in terms of sizes of boxes, that consumers can choose. Which size is the most popular, and why, in your opinion?
AF: Currently the multipack with six of our single-serve packs are the most popular packaging option. We believe consumers really love being able to stock up on multiples of their favorite snack flavor without feeling tempted to eat too much in one sitting because our snacks are pre-portioned into single-serve packs.
LP: How do you choose the snacks that Graze offers?
AF: We have a talented NPD (new product development) team that constantly hunts for interesting new ingredients and flavor combinations. Each month they test out new snacks and work with our in-house nutritionist to ensure each snack tastes delicious while also meeting graze's nutritional standards.
LP: Are people more interested in clean-label snacks these days?
AF: As consumers become more educated on nutrition, they are also becoming more conscious of what they put into their bodies. These days, there is such an inundation of health messaging that it can become confusing to people to understand what is actually "good" for them. That's why at graze, we strive to simplify what healthy means. For example, we never use any GM ingredients, artificial colors/flavors and we always make sure each one of our snacks has a nutritional benefit, such as a source of protein or the essential vitamins and minerals needed to power through the day.