Bokksu poised for exponential growth as consumer demand for snacks, Japanese culture booms

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Bokksu grows as demand for snacks, Japanese culture booms

Related tags: Subscription business model, Snacks, ecommerce

After growing steadily for the past four years, despite “living month to month” due to restrictions related to bootstrapping a business, the Japanese snack subscription service and ecommerce platform Bokksu is ready to go to the next level with a seven-figure investment from Decathlon Capital Partners.

“Our goal is to double our growth in 2020, but to do it in a way that is sustainable, respects our supply chain and ensures that everybody is paid fairly, but yet offers this unique service and platform that people can’t get otherwise,”Bokksu​ CEO and Founder Danny Taing recently told FoodNavigator-USA.

While this may sound ambitious, Taing says he believes it is achievable with Decathlon’s ​help, which will allow Bokksu to overhaul its website and expand its offerings so that consumers can more easily discover and purchase authentic Japanese snacks through monthly subscriptions of themed boxes or a la carte. The funding also will enable the company to develop engaging brand-building content to further drive consumer awareness and hire additional staff.

Exponential growth

Taing’s goal of doubling Bokksu’s current 16,000 subscribers and $4.8 million in revenue in 2020 should be easily attainable if the company continues the exponential growth that it has seen year-over-year since it launched in May 2016.

“When I launched in May 2016, I had 40 subscribers, most of whom where friends supporting me. But after that first half year, I did about $40,000 in revenue, which we grew in 2017 to more than 1,000 subscribers and $300,000 in revenue. By the end of 2018, we passed 10,000 subscribers and earned $2.8 million in revenue, and in 2019 we surpassed 16,000 subscribers and $4.8 million in revenue,”​ Taing said.

Taing said the fast-paced growth, which he described as “very exciting and stressful,”​ was possible because his team “has been working our butts off producing a lot of original content and offering a really great service that has long retention and inspires people to share word of mouth.”

But, he added, “to keep growing to the next level, we needed more funding and resources.”

Laying the foundation for fast growth

The first step Taing says he will take with Decathlon's funding is to create a longer-range business plan than has been possible with company’s restricted cash flow so far.

“We haven’t been able to do a lot of long-term planning because we have been living so month to month, but this will allow us to really take a step back and do a strong six-, 12- and 18-month business plan,”​ he said.

Part of that will include hiring multiple directors to oversee and develop marketing, content, and operations for larger scale and reach, he said.

“On top of that, we also have a Tokyo office that we set up almost two years ago now that we would like to fill out to help with our bread and butter sourcing, our relationships, our supply chain and kind of what makes us really special and uniquely marketed in the industry,”​ he said.

An upgraded website

The funding comes as Bokksu is putting the finishing touches on its upgraded website and looking to create additional content to engage consumers and drive brand awareness.

“We are in the process of upgrading the website totally from the ground up”​ to better profile the company’s marketplace where consumers can buy snacks a la carte, Taing said. “The market is going to be a big focus this year for us. We want the on-demand ecommerce shop to have its own identity and shopping portal to make it easier for consumers to explore and checkout.”

The overhaul is necessary as the current layout makes it difficult to see, sort and select different options.

“We did our best with our current Shopify store, but it is fairly bare bones – just like a listing of collections of things that people can purchase. But we really want to expand it to have a much easier navigation, more categories, more collections and make it more fun to shop and discover new choices. Right now, with only a hundred SKUs or so, it is kind of doable, but the plan is to get up to 250 SKUs by the end of this year,”​ he explained.

Taing also wants to enhance the website and company’s ability to tell the stories behind each product and the company that makes them. Currently, Bokksu shares these stories in an emailed newsletter to followers, but it wants to add more videos that show where the products come from and highlight the families behind them.

“Our hope is that some of these videos and stories will go viral and raise awareness for Bokksu because people are hungry to learn more about food and then when they do, they want to try them,”​ he said.

Japanese snacks are not niche

As exhausting as all these upgrades may sound, Taing said that now is the time to make them because consumer interest in Japanese culture is “booming,”​ but there aren’t a lot of reliable resources to help feed that need.

“The stats on the interest in Japan are amazing. Six years ago there were 6 million visitors to Japan, but this past year there were well over 30 million. And with the Olympics this year, there will be over 40 million people.

"In addition, Japanese restaurants, culture and media are being consumed at a huge rate – so we are really riding that global trend right now as more and more people discover new foods and snacks,”​ he said.

“So, while people might think that what we are doing is kind of niche, it is not. It is in fact huge and growing.”

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