“This acquisition is not about throwing out money to acquire customers. It is really about building trust and credibility in the gluten-free community” by partnering with individuals and companies that have operated in the space much longer than Love With Food, the company founder and CEO Aihui Ong told FoodNavigator-USA.
She explained that Love With Food, which launched four years ago as a monthly subscription service to help consumers discover healthy, natural snacks while also donating to area food banks, first entered the gluten-free space in 2014 with the acquisition of G-Free Foodie. It further bolstered its position eight months later with the acquisition of Taste Guru in 2015.
Like those acquisitions, the recent deal with Send Me Gluten Free, which mails eight to 10 full- and sample-size gluten-free foods, personal care items, supplements and household products to subscribers, provides Love With Food with recognizable expertise to help it select gluten-free products that are safe and delicious.
Ong says she was drawn to the Send Me Gluten Free in part because its prior owner, Jen Cafferty, is well respected in the gluten-free community and her faith in Love With Food, as demonstrated by the sale, validates Ong’s business.
The deal also will provide Love With Food a unique marketing opportunity as Cafferty, who is the CEO and Founder of The Gluten Free Media Group, has agreed to promote Love With Food’s gluten-free subscription snack service at its Gluten Free & Allergy Friendly Expo, Ong said.
A shelter for subscribers of defunct competitors
Love With Food also is expanding its dominance in the online snack delivery space by welcoming consumers from other competitors that have folded, but which did not want to abandon their subscribers.
For example, when gluten-free subscription box Cuisine Cube recently went out of business, the company asked Ong if it could redirect its subscribers to Love With Food. Ong said she was flattered by the request because it illustrates the respect and trust that other players in the gluten-free space have for her company.
“They emailed me out of the blue. A lot of niche companies email me and ask if I am open to acquisition … in part because we built a great brand that continues to prove to customers that we can surprise and delight them with new products – even after four years. We also have great customer service, which is why all these companies call me, looking for a good home for their consumers,” Ong said.
These deals underscore the rapidly accelerating consolidation that is happening in the snack delivery category, Ong add.
“In this landscape, you see a lot of the niche or smaller players are finding it difficult to sustain their business and are looking for bigger companies that can acquire them” or take over their subscriber bases, she said.
As illustrated by Love With Food’s track record, the company remains open to acquisitions as long as the targets meet its high standards and are well respected by consumers, Ong said.
Even as Love With Food builds its gluten-free business, it also is expanding geographically, Ong said.
This summer, Love With Food will begin shipping its snack boxes to Canada, which is a “huge opportunity for us,” Ong said.
She explained Love With Food has explored international expansion for a while, but until now has been held back by high shipping costs.
“Shipping obviously is the largest cost of the box. And we have now found a shipping consolidator that can provide a good rate” and help us consistently deliver to Canadians, she said.
Increased opportunities for brands
As if the expansion were not enough to keep Ong busy, she continues to explore new ways to better partner with manufacturers to showcase their brands and help them gather feedback from consumers on their products.
For example, in May Love With Food partnered with Enjoy Life Foods to do a “takeover box,” Ong said. This allowed the gluten-free and allergy-friendly company to build better brand awareness by showcasing its broad range of products at once rather than showcasing only one product in a mixed box that also might feature options from competitors.
Ong admits she wasn’t sure how consumers would react to receiving samples from only one company, but she said many were excited by the variety of products Enjoy Life Foods offered.
Because Love With Food gathers consumer feedback on the products for the snack makers, a takeover box could be a good way to test multiple prototypes at once to ensure a brand’s portfolio features the best options, Ong said.
With so many paths forward for growth, Ong said she is excited about the potential for Love With Food as it strives towards its goal to become the largest snack subscription service that helps consumers find great-tasting, junk-free snacks that are tailored to different dietary needs.