The home-delivery snack box trend has expanded rapidly over the last few years, to the point that you can find just about any kind of specialized box, from gluten-free to Paleo-diet-friendly. But being the snack-obsessive that I am, I was most interested in testing out the bigger and broader options, some of the best of which are reviewed here.
Most of the founders I spoke with credit savvier consumers for the proliferation of these snack-of-the-month clubs—best described as subscription-based food services that deliver a box of goodies to your door. They also point to the lack of innovation in standard grocery and convenience stores, which are more focused on the bottom line than selling unique and independent labels. And, of course, there’s the internet—you can buy pretty much anything online.
So what do I look for in the perfect snack box? First and foremost, variety. I want an even mix of sweet and salty, chewy and crunchy, healthy and indulgent. On the ability to compose the contents of your own boxes, I’m torn. (Only one company on this list leaves the decision 100% in the subscriber’s hands; a few allow you to rate snacks, which influence future orders.) Sure, it’s nice to be able to pick out what you want. Yet part of the fun is the element of surprise and being forced to try new things. And of course, services should be convenient, giving you the ability to start and stop whenever you want.
So which ones, er, deliver? Read on the find out.
[Photograph courtesy Love With Food]
Founded in late 2011 by Aihui Ong, a software engineer with a passion for food, Love With Food is part snack box business, part charity. For every box ordered, the company donates a meal to a U.S. food bank, with more than 150,000 meals donated to date. The focus is on organic or all-natural goods with no artificial flavors or colors, trans fats, hydrogenated oils, or high-fructose corn syrup. The cheery red box I received was a grab bag of somewhat random single-serving items that skewed sweet—I could have used a few more salty or savory options (or even a second bag of the addictive 479 Degree black truffle-white cheddar popcorn). The dark-chocolate-covered blueberries by Emily’s Chocolate and chocolate-chip biscotti from Biscotti di Suzy weren’t anything special, but the individually wrapped pieces of TCHO chocolate—including Mokaccino, made with Blue Bottle Coffee—made up for it. The Back to Nature honey graham sticks were like that somewhat healthy dessert you put into your kid’s lunch; for me, they hit the spot when I wanted something just a little sweet. And though I was skeptical at first of the small pouch of seasoned pitted olives (“packed loose without the juice!”), they were surprisingly good.
Based on the volume and variety, I definitely felt like I got my money’s worth, and adding coupons for a few of the items was a nice touch. The box also had a card listing every snack included, along with a description (and Twitter handle of the company); this came in handy to remind me what I liked even after I’d eaten it in case I wanted to order more directly from Love With Food website. Once a quarter, Love With Food invites celebrity chefs such as Ming Tsai and Andrew Zimmern to curate boxes. Users are very active on the company’s website, writing about and rating (from 1 to 5 stars) individual snacks; one item had more than 1,000 reviews.
How it works: Tasting box (from $10) includes around eight snacks; the Deluxe box (from $17) comes with 16-20 snacks. Subscribers also earn points with each box, which can be redeemed online for individual snacks they want more of (100 points = $1).
[Photograph courtesy NatureBox]
What sets this two-year-old snack-of-the-month company apart is that it lets you choose what you want in your own boxes. Subscribers can choose from more than 120 products that are free of high fructose corn syrup, trans fat, and artificial colors, sweeteners and flavors; filters like dietary needs and taste (such as savory, sweet, and spicy) make the website easy to navigate and fun to use. If you’d rather not decide for yourself, pre-made boxes like Picnic Season and Fall Feast are also available. Snacks come in full-size, NatureBox-branded re-sealable bags. The Pistachio Power Clusters— nut squares with almonds, cashews, and pistachios— were a crunchy treat, while the French Toast Granola (maple-flavored granola with pecans) tasted too sugary for me. I used the Cherry Berry Bonanza (dried cranberries, cherries, and blueberries) in my cereal every morning —it saved me from having to buy that week’s worth of dried fruit. The box also includes a pamphlet that illustrates the serving size for each snack, which made it clear that I was eating way too many of both the Masa Crisps (mini corn chips with flax seeds) and Roasted Kettle Kernels (honey-coated toasted corn that made me never want to eat a salty corn nut again). The pamphlet also mentions ways to use them in recipes, though telling me to sprinkle dried cherries over Greek yogurt for “tart texture” or serve masa crisps with a homemade dip (without providing a recipe for said dip) wasn’t that helpful.
Despite the relatively streamlined website, I couldn’t figure out how to put my subscription on hold—there wasn’t an easy “cancel” button on the account page—but my correspondence with customer service via email was quick and easy. And though this one is on the pricier end, you get enough snacks to last at least a few weeks (assuming you adhere to the serving sizes). Like Love With Food, NatureBox donates a meal for every box it ships—the company says it’s on track to donate over 1 million this year.
How it works: The Deluxe package includes five full-size packages ($19.95/month); Happy Snacker, good for four to five people, has 10 packages ($29.95/month); and Smart Snacker, eight to 10 people, has 20 packages. ($49.95/month). Shipping is free.
[Photographs courtesy Mouth]
This company, which launched two years ago, is the most expensive option on the list—but it’s also the sharpest. It all starts with the website, which really is a work of art; I challenge you to visit and not go down the rabbit hole of impeccably photographed food. The company champions what it calls “indie food”—made-in-America, small-batch goods that use mostly fair trade and organic ingredients, with cute packaging. My reusable tote bag (another bonus) came with not-too-salty potato chips from St. Louis; Brooklyn-made Butter & Scotch caramel popcorn (punched up with bourbon and lemon zest); a salty-and-sweet granola studded with dried sour cherries and pumpkin seeds by Portland, Oregon’s Blackbird Food Co.; a Sweeteeth chocolate bar from Charleston, made with port wine and vanilla bean; a fiery jar of jalapeño-honey-dill pickles (complete with a mass of dill fronds in the jar) by Denver-based The Real Dill; and chewy filet mignon from Three Jerks Jerky (Venice, CA). There was not one thing I didn’t like or wanted more of once it was gone (except maybe for the pickles—that was one huge jar).
Unlike the others on this list, Mouth.com is not as invested in meeting certain nutritional standards—so if you’re looking for a way to only snack healthfully, this is probably not for you. The price comes out to $60 per month, so it’s best for that person who is committed to supporting homegrown brands and quality goods, rather than someone who just wants the convenience of snacks delivered to their door.
How it works: Subscriptions start at three months for $180, and go up to a year for $720.
[Photograph courtesy Nibblr]
This new subscription service sends four single-serving, individually sealed boxes. I received two sweet and two salty options, with nothing over 150 calories. I could have used a second (or third) serving of the Sesa-Me & You (sesame honey almonds), but the Stuck on Flax (flax sea salt pretzel pearls) felt like they were giving me cavities while I ate them. The seasoned curry cashews were the highlight of the Oh My Thai mix, which also had raisins and toasted coconut. My favorite was actually the simplest: dried figs, dates, and apricots, a.k.a. Mediterranean Treasures, though it could have had more apricot and less fig. In general, I’ve never been a fan of paying more for pre-portioned anything, but if nothing else, Nibblr showed me how much dried fruit I should be eating (a lot less than I usually do). Users can go online and rate the products, from “Love it” to “No thanks.” While you can’t choose exactly what you get, the more you rate, the more the company will know what you like and don’t like, so your box still maintains some element of surprise.
The website is simple and easy to use, but the search function didn’t work that well; key terms such as “flax,” “fig,” and “sesame” turned up no results. When I found my way to the snacks I had received, I noticed that many of my opinions didn’t match up with the overall “Love it” ratings: the pretzel pearls came in at 42% (I would have said “No thanks”), while the cashew mix ranked 21% (“Like it” for me). It made me curious what the highest-ranking snacks were—perhaps a tab the website could incorporate in the future.
How it works: Frequency is weekly, every other week, or monthly, and you can pause or cancel at any time. $5.99/box (if you order four at once, it’s $5.75, and 12 at once, it’s $5.50).
[Photograph courtesy Graze]
This European transplant was founded in London in 2008 by seven friends who were “sick of chips and candy.” Since launching in the U.S. at the end of 2013, Graze has already doubled its U.S. subscriber base. The format is essentially the same as Nibblr: boxes contain four individually packaged and pre-portioned snacks. Full nutritional info can be found online, though each package is labeled with a symbol that describes its health benefit, from having a serving of fruit to being a source of protein. The mixes didn’t always live up to their names. Take Cookies and Cream, for example. Sure, it had somewhat cardboard-y mini chocolate cookies and white chocolate “buttons,” but hazelnuts and a lot of sunflower seeds outnumbered them. Jelly Doughnut was much better: raspberry strings (best described as less sugary sour straws), raspberry-infused dried cranberries, almond slices, and Nilla wafer-like “sponge pieces.” The two savory options were the straightforward black pepper pistachios (my favorite) and the too-garlic-and-onion-y Cheese Board, with “cheese cashews,” baked herb bites (a.k.a. crackers), and salsa corn sticks.
Like Nibblr, the website is simple and clean-lined, though it has a lot more specific categories to search (including “flapjacks,” British for oat-based granola bars). Also like Nibblr, rating your snack box is a huge part of the process and helps the company customize deliveries. According to an article on Market Watch, more than 15,000 new ratings are generated per hour. Allergic or just don’t like a certain ingredient? You can “trash” everything that contains it. There’s also a tab for “undiscovered foods,” which indicates the snacks that you personally have not yet tried, which is a nice touch.
How it works: Boxes cost $6, including delivery. They initially come every two weeks, but you can choose to get them every four weeks or even weekly.