Who would’ve thought, the country infamously known for its 60% of passport-less people is also the place where subscription box company Try The World—which curates goods from 15 countries and delivers them to American doorsteps—has seen 80% growth in its shipments year-over-year?
“We’re really confirming that trend for interest in foreign products—it’s really crazy to be honest,” Foult told FoodNavigator-USA, referencing the numerous forecasts that report the increasingly adventurous palate of American consumers.
“This year we’ll be shipping 80% more products than we did last year, and the volumes are already pretty significant,” he added.
According to Foult, the past two years have been good to Try The World. Since launching in 2013, the company went from zero to 40,000 subscribers in just one year, riding on momentum of the subscription box and meal kit model in general.
The company started off buying the contents of its boxes from retailers. In that same year, their volume increased enough to buy from importers, and then directly from the overseas producers, allowing for lower prices and improved margins.
From 15 countries to an American doorstep
So far, Try The World stocks items from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Finland, France, Israel, Italy, Japan, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, and the UK. The service is at the moment only available to US consumers.
Their poster product is the Signature Country box, where subscribers receive one box per month with seven to eight products from one country. Subscribers have the option to pay $39 per box every month, or pay for six months in advance (for $33 per box) or the whole year in advance (for $29 per box). It comes with beautifully designed recipe cards and a primer to the country’s culture.
The second product, launched more recently, came from the company’s observation (and that of everyone else) that there is “a huge market for snacking in the US,” Foult said. The Snack Box brings five snacks from five different countries every month, with prices starting at $15 per box if subscribers pay for the year in advance (if monthly, its $19 per box).
If the subscribers really enjoyed something from the box, or if someone doesn’t want a box subscription at all, the items are for sale individually on Try The World’s online store.
According to Foult, it takes a village to produce one box. In the beginning, only chefs that really loved the concept agreed to help them scout and select gourmet goods. Now, several of the curating chefs are Michelin star winners, and as the company’s reputation and exposure increased (think coverage on The Wall Street Journal, Travel + Leisure, and The Huffington Post), tourism boards, business associations, and ministries of export started to want in.
“They basically help us in different ways—they could pay for the trip for instance, or they organize meeting with suppliers—because they want to promote local suppliers,” Foult said. Now the company has a database of 1,000+ suppliers, with 400+ SKUs sold on the online shop or put in the subscription boxes.
The long journey into the US market
In fact, buying directly from overseas makers was part of the foundation of Try The World’s conception. “I realized that thousands of foreign producers were failing while trying to enter the US market,” Foult reminisced.
The Frenchman was studying economics at Columbia University when he met co-founder Kat Vorotova, who was enrolled at the university’s business school. The two of them already had some food-industry know-how—Vorotova worked for Weight Watchers while running a foodie blog on the side, while Foult started a microfinance company for local food producers and manufacturers in Vietnam. “That’s when I really fell in love with local production,” Foult added.
Foult also had experience working at a pop-up store in France, where he specialized in aiding foreign brands enter the European market for short term retail. That’s where he learned how difficult it is for smaller producers to expand in new markets.
“We thought of a solution to really facilitate a process for foreign brands and be the smartest way for any quality foreign food producer to access the US market,” Foult said about Try The World’s conception, which started while both he and Vorotova were still studying.
Loyalty Program: Engaging consumers and getting to know them
This week, Try The World is launching its loyalty program called Passports. “The idea is that the more boxes you receive and the more products you buy, the more points you can redeem at the online shop,” Foult said.
Additionally, Foult hinted at a new product to be launched in Q4 of this year that would involve taking advantage of the company’s nifty in-house algorithm, which so far has been used to attract and acquire new consumers through online ads (though he couldn’t reveal more about the new product).
Despite being very much a digital company that aims to bring digital convenience, public person-to-person engagement is something the company has ramped up in the past year. They’ve started doing pop-up stores around Manhattan, and they’re tapping the B2B crowd through their debut appearance at the Summer Fancy Food Show.
They’ve created a loyal following among their early adaptors, mostly young women living in big cities, but they are confident that with both digital and in-person efforts, their span would reach an even wider audience. With the forthcoming new product and new loyalty program, Try The World’s goals are ambitious: “The idea is you won’t need to go grocery shopping anymore except for your fresh ingredients,” Foult said.
“Our consumers, it’s really across the board because we’re tapping into two different channels—we’re doing marketing online, but we’re doing retail as well—[our ads] are in New York subways and we will be in subways in other cities as well,” he added. “Everyone buys food products everyday, so there’s no discrimination there.”