Enter New York-based smoothie delivery brand Daily Harvest, one of a new breed of online start-ups targeting time poor consumers that are prepared to pay for a service that makes healthy eating convenient and easy by delivering customized products to their doorsteps.
Unlike some of the meal-kit delivery companies that private equity firms have been throwing money at lately, Daily Harvest products don’t require any preparation, says founder Rachel Drori, who has just closed a $1.5m round of funding.
“Some of these meal kits take way longer than they say to prepare, and you get to the point where you think it would have been quicker and cheaper just to order a takeaway."
And unlike some of the more niche snack or gourmet food subscription box services, Daily Harvest's core products – smoothies – are items that target consumers have built into their daily or weekly routine, so if you give them what they want, you should be able to bank on solid repeat orders, she says.
You just grab one out the freezer, add some liquid, put it in the blender and it’s ready in 30 seconds
At Daily Harvest, users order their smoothies from an online menu of 14 choices, and receive six, 12 or 24 frozen cups pre-filled with all of the pre-portioned recipe components (chopped fruits, veggie, nuts etc) that can be stored in the freezer.
When you want a smoothie, you simply take a cup from the freezer, peel off the film, add some water or milk/almond milk and pour the contents into a blender, creating a smoothie you can serve in the cup provided, which comes complete with a lid and a straw so you can enjoy it on the move.
Users can arrange for delivery once a week, once a month or at other increments [they make their selections on an online calendar], and they can skip a delivery or stop using the service at any time, says Drori, who officially launched her service in September 2015 after extensive beta testing and is now fielding orders from 32 states.
It’s about convenience without compromise
While there are other smoothie delivery firms springing up, they involve more preparation and more forward planning because they are not frozen, claims Drori. At rival greenblender, for example, users get five recipes a week and enough ingredients (whole fruits and veggies that require preparation, plus sachets of dry ingredients) to make 10 smoothies. But if your plans change, the produce might go to waste, says Drori.
“Greenblender is great, but if you don’t start making the smoothies within a day or two, the ingredients start to wilt and you’ve still got some washing and chopping to do, and you’ve got to follow a recipe [that makes two fresh smoothies at a time]. Our smoothies are frozen, with all the components already in the cup ready to go.
“You just grab one out the freezer, add some liquid, put it in the blender and it’s ready in 30 seconds. It’s about convenience without compromise. I also think smoothies made with frozen ingredients provide a more flavorful, frothy kind of experience. You can add ice to fresh smoothies to get the same experience, but then it waters down the flavor.”
We could see how word of mouth was driving the business
But isn’t it pretty expensive to ship frozen smoothies to individual consumers all over the country?
According to Drori: “Yes, frozen shipping is expensive, but you don’t have to build a retail margin into your price.”
Investors, she says, who are now being pitched to by a lot of food delivery companies, are more interested in margins, customer acquisition costs and retention rates, and Daily Harvest has been able to impress on all fronts.
When it comes to customer acquisition costs, for example, the service has already spread to 32 states with minimal marketing (although the core markets are Los Angeles and New York), claims Drori, who won’t share customer retention rates, but says that they are extremely encouraging.
“What was fascinating is that we were looking at where our orders were coming from by using a bubble map of the US and we could really can see how word of mouth was driving the business.
“So in any given location you can see a customer zero, and then you see people with the same last name as customer zero place an order not long afterwards [customer zero has presumably told family members about Daily Harvest], and then you see more people from the same zip code make an order [the second wave of customers has presumably told friends about the service].
“We also have a referral program and we reward loyal customers that spread the word, but it was something that was really happening without our having to spend a lot of money. Social media is also a big part of word of mouth, especially with a product like smoothies, where people are sharing pictures on instagram all the time.”
At Daily Harvest, users order their smoothies from an online menu and receive six, 12 or 24 frozen cups pre-filled with all of the pre-portioned recipe components that can be stored in the freezer.
When you want a smoothie, you take a cup from the freezer, peel off the film, add some water or milk/almond milk and pour the contents into a blender, creating a smoothie you can serve in the cup provided, which comes complete with a lid and a straw so you can enjoy it on the move.
As for the price, you can easily pay $10+ for top-quality smoothies at a smoothie bar,/cafe claims Drori, so Daily Harvest smoothies are competitively priced in comparison (the price per smoothie works out at $7.99, $7.49 or $6.99 depending on whether you order 6, 12 or 24).
And from a recipe perspective, claims Drori, they are equally alluring, utilizing on-trend ingredients such as maca, acerola, avocado, and sea buckthorn as well as smoothie staples such as mango, watermelon, blueberries and strawberries.
There's no waste
Aside from the convenience Daily Harvest delivers, meanwhile, one of the most appealing aspects of the service is that nothing gets wasted, she argues.
As anyone that makes their own smoothies - or anything else - from fresh ingredients will testify, says Drori, unless you plan your recipes and grocery shopping with military precision, you’ll end up throwing things out, just because you don't need the whole watermelon, or a whole pineapple.
From a nutritional perspective meanwhile, using fruits and veggies that are frozen as soon as they are harvested means your Daily Harvest smoothie may also pack a greater nutritional punch than ones made with produce that’s been sitting in a grocery store (or wilting in your cupboard/fridge) - for days or weeks.
$1.5m funding round
But can’t people that lack the time, energy or advance planning skills to make their own smoothies just buy them from a juice bar, rather than signing up for a service like Daily Harvest?
Of course, says Drori, but while some people might pass three smoothie bars on their way to work, a lot of people don’t live or work within easy distance of one, and don’t want to make a special trip just for a smoothie.
“If you’ve got to stand in a long queue, or get two small kids into the car, or get up earlier to make the time to go there before work, it’s not convenient. I know I don’t have time to do that.”