April 1, 2013
Have you noticed the gold rush toward subscription based delivery services over the last couple of years? Perhaps you’re familiar with Truck Club, Birchbox, Foodzie, and/or Quarterly.co? Science Inc. has doubled down on this trend with their backing of Wittlebee, Dollar Shave Club, Urban Remedy, and Fresh Dish. With the success of those who have paved the way, the question has swung from “can subscription retail succeed?” to “what markets remain?“.
Kona Kase believes they’ve found a profitable answer to this question – endurance athletes. Each month the DC-based startup sends an array of foods, meal-replacements, and supplements to long distance athletes looking for an interesting change of pace over their traditional training treats.
As Tech Cocktail’s resident endurance athlete (all that’s required is to walk from Georgia to Maine to earn this title), I received last month’s “Kase” as a demo which included a KIND bar, some energy chews, Rocket Fuel, gluten free chips, amongst other carbohydrate/nutrient rich treats (pictured below).
Admittedly, I’m a bit reluctant to fork over money for test-tube food out of fear of buying something that tastes like science- so it’s reassuring to have someone else curating the selection. The variety is also a nice change of pace, as opposed to buying the 40% discounted mystery bars, which (suspiciously never) end up rotting in the back of your cupbard. For the ultra-competitive athlete, Kona Kase probably serves as a better training sample platter as opposed to something to experiment with during competition, as race time is the enemy of uncertainty.
And announced earlier today, Kona Kase has partnered with GU Energy Labs and will be including 15 GU products in their May shipment (their standard Kase has 8). “Our customers can experience the complete GU performance suite,” adds Taylor Llewellyn, co-founder at Kona Kase.
I had the opportunity to Katch up (see what I did there) with Llewellyn to learn more about Kona Kase and what to expect from the startup in the coming months.
Tech Cocktail: What was the inspiration for Kona Kase?
Taylor Llewellyn: The company formed around really being tired of using the same old training products. I was participating in The Relay 199 mile race from Calistoga to Santa Cruz and found myself eating tortilla chips between legs of the race because I was bored of the same products I had been using forever. In the van during the race we started to chat about all the different niche products that must be out there and how cool it would be to try different ones and find the best from around the country. We also thought the brands would love to get their products in the hands of this very targeted customer demographic. Like so many businesses, it was formed around solving a personal pain-point.
Tech Cocktail: How do you decide which products to include?
Llewellyn: The criteria we follow are:
- Do we personally love the product?
- Is it the type of product our customers have requested?
- Does this add some kind of interesting variety to a month’s shipment based on the other products we have included?
- Is it relatively healthy?
- Is the branding/messaging cool and in line with our goals and values?
Tech Cocktail: What is your background with endurance athletics?
Llewellyn: I played sports in college and since then have run three marathons and gotten into open water swimming. John is a hardcore cyclist who road his bike across the country a few years ago and he’s training for a 1/2 ironman. Basically, we’re just generally active/athletic guys, which is exactly who we’re targeting. Doesn’t matter if you’re running, biking, kayaking, skiing or training for a marathon, we can be your Go-To service to fuel those activities.
Tech Cocktail: Does Kona Kase plan on expanding to other markets (weight lifting, sport specific, etc.)?
Llewellyn: Right now we’re not focused on specific sports, but we are looking into more customization based on individual customer preferences. We think this will add a ton of value to the customer experience. Before that we’ll be launching a marketplace at konakase.com where customers can buy their favorite products from our featured partner brands.
Disclaimer: Tech Cocktail received a free Kona Kase for the purpose of a review.
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