Goodies in a box
Food and beverage-related subscription services, where items are delivered to the customer regularly, are continuing to grow.
First, there were speciality grocers doing home deliveries of fruit, vegetables and seafood. Now, business owners are moving towards a niche market, offering sake, whisky, Japanese snacks and artisanal coffee.
Customers who subscribe to such services do it mainly for the convenience, as the items are delivered regularly or when needed.
Subscription packages for a month and up to a year are available.
And to encourage subscribers to continue with the programme, business owners may offer exclusive or limited-edition products that are unlikely to be found anywhere else.
Whisky Butler, for instance, offers subscribers four 20ml sample bottles of whisky every month. Customers who like what they try can buy full bottles from its online shop.
The service starts at $74 a month for a one-year subscription.
Co-owner Benjamin Tan, 31, says: "We want to encourage people to go beyond familiar brands."
Similarly, Japanese snack subscription service Kimochbox sends consumers a variety of snacks every month so they can decide which ones they want to buy in larger quantities.
It costs from $13 a box for a one-year subscription.
The service is a tie-up with Japanese snack chain Yamakawa Super, which recently launched its online supermarket site.
Kimochbox founder Zhang Bun Bun, 33, says: "Our sample portions let people try a variety of snacks without worrying about wastage."
She has plans to sell Japanese cooking ingredients, instant noodles and rice on Kimochbox.
To give consumers more freedom, Ms Faye Victoria Sit, 24, co-founder of Hook Coffee, does not tie them down to a fixed subscription. Customers decide the frequency of delivery and are charged only when the coffee is delivered. Prices start at $18 for a 250g bag of coffee.
She says Hook has shipped more than 500 bags of coffee and has more than 300 subscribers.
One of the earlier entrants into subscription services is The French Cellar, which was launched in 2013. It sells exclusive wines from France selected by sommelier Nicolas Rebut.
The French Cellar's chief executive officer Vincent Morello, 32, says: "We are seeing a steady increase in business. We have already shipped more than 10,000 boxes containing two bottles each and launched in Shanghai at the end of last year.
"As long as a subscription service is unique and reasonably priced and has strong re-order potential, then the business has a chance."
And things are set to get sweeter. Looking to launch a surprise box concept next month is Mr Malvin Chiam, 24, co-founder of Unicandy, a new start-up that sells candy from all over the world. The boxes are priced at $17.90, $27.90 and $37.90 for a month's worth of sweets.
Indeed, consumers are enjoying such niche subscription services.
Teacher Low Kian Seh, 37, who signed up for fortnightly delivery of drip bags from Hook Coffee, says: "I first ordered to sample the coffee and I liked it. Ten bags cost $18 and I think it is worth it."
Marketing manager Allan Ma, 23, who subscribes to Kimochbox, says: "I am very happy to have more than 10 types of snacks to try without worrying about wasting food.
"It's also a nice surprise every first week of the month because I never know what's going to be in the box."
What: Those who love Japanese snacks can get monthly samples of 10 to 12 items from Kimochbox.
Instead of buying whole bags of chocolates and sweets, subscribers get sample portions of the items.
The company collaborates with Japanese speciality store Yamakawa Super, which has outlets at Suntec City and The Central in Clarke Quay. Yamakawa Super has recently launched its online delivery platform so customers who like the snacks in the boxes can buy the full-sized versions there.
Special boxes can be customised for celebrations or corporate events. Plans to sell other Japanese products such as sauces and instant noodles are in the pipeline.
Price: From $13 a box (one-year subscription) to $15 (pay every month)
What: Get your fix of artisanal coffee with Hook Coffee. Unlike other subscription services, which have fixed weekly, monthly or yearly deliveries, you can manage the frequency of deliveries using Hook's Coffee Calculator during the online check-out.
Answer some quick questions to determine the flavours you like in your coffee and your preferred brewing style and Hook will also recommend a suitable coffee.
The company offers beans from India, El Salvador and Colombia. A house blend, made with beans from Brazil and Mexico, is also available.
You can buy whole beans or get them ground on demand and calibrated to work with various brew methods such as an espresso machine and French press. Do not own any equipment? Opt for its drip bags instead. The beans are shipped within the week of roasting and the dates are indicated on the website.
Price: $18 (250g bag that makes up to 15 cups of espresso), $18 (pack of 10 drip coffee pouches)
What: Instead of paying for a bottle of whisky that may not be to your liking, sign up with Whisky Butler, which delivers four 20ml sample bottles a month. If you like what you taste, you can buy the full bottle from its website. Each month's selection has a theme, such as Scottish whiskies in February and Japanese whiskies this month. Next month's picks come from the Glenfiddich distillery in Scotland, with 18- to 23-year-old whiskies.
Price: From $74 a month (one-year subscription) to $88 (pay every month)
What: Do a quick quiz on your tea preferences and the "prediction engine" will pick out teas for you - from black tea to chai. There is also a wide selection of single estate teas. More exotic flavours under its "new arrivals" section include Mango Turmeric Tang and Apple Florentine.
The online site also retails the tea in sample packs and sells tea accessories.
Price: From $28.48 for a Tea Lover plan (100g of three types of tea)
What: As the sake scene here continues to grow, seek out more unusual types of sake via Sakemaru.
Launched in January, it is run by Mr Taichi Abe, a sake sommelier and distributor of sake in Singapore.
He also opened a sake bar in January at Tampopo in Ngee Ann City.
Next month's sake selection is the Tokubetsu Junmai Hattan Nishiki Nama Genshu from the empoichi brewery in Fukuyamashi, Hiroshima.
Price: $50 a month for a bottle of sake, $100 a month for two bottles
What: Enter couch potato mode with ice cream delivered to your door step.
The current flavour is Tiramisu, with coffee-soaked sponge finger biscuits. Previous flavours include Hazelnut Bomb, with hazelnut gelato, crushed hazelnuts, chocolate cake and 74 per cent chocolate-covered cornflakes; and Black & White, which is chocolate gelato (with 80 per cent couverture chocolate) with white chocolate truffles mixed in.
Next month's flavour will be released on April 11.
Price: From $29 a month (one-year subscription) to $38 (pay every month)
This article was first published on March 20, 2016.
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