Looking for the perfect present for your Maine-obsessed friends and family who live elsewhere? With the rising popularity of subscription boxes and creative crated products, new startups are capitalizing on the Maine brand, delivering a cache of local goods to doorsteps around the country.
“There is an explosive trend around subscription commerce,” said Luke Nielson of Seasonal Maine, who works with companies such as Stonewall Kitchen and Coastal Maine Popcorn curating “Vacationland in a box” four times a year. An annual subscription is $159.95.
At Box of Maine.com, customers create their own cache of Maine maple syrup, Humpty Dumpty potato chips and whoopie pies. Meanwhile, MooseheadMarketplace.com gathers artisan foods, crafts and candles in sturdy pine boxes filled with regional delights such as bourbon caramels from Northwoods Gourmet Girl and ships them all over.
The concept is not too removed from the mail-order beer, cheese and steak of the month clubs. But in the social media age, national companies such as Birchbox, a monthly cosmetic and grooming delivery service, and Bark Box, which speeds dog treats to your door, reach large, plugged-in audiences.
Rising in popularity nationally for years, in Maine, “the whole crate idea took off in mid-fall,” said Tammy Knight, program manager for the state’s Maine Made Program.
“It’s a real spin-off on gift baskets. People have done gift bags on made in Maine products; Stonewall Kitchen has done baskets,” said Knight, who sees the latest wave as a contemporary Maine catchall. “It’s neat that they have popped up. It’s pretty exciting.”
To Saco native Nielson, who came up with the idea for Seasonal Maine to sate his brother who moved to Los Angeles, “there is a certain mystique about Maine. When people who summer and winter here leave, they miss Maine.”
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A few days before Seasonal Maine launched, the Portland-based CrateFull of Maine made its debut. It is backed by John Turner, who turns lobster traps into glasses at Traps Eyewear, Chris Avantaggio, founder of LiveME, and Nathan O’Leary, a “digital maker” and the founder of Mainely SEO. From high-end bait bag pouches from Alaina Marie, to candy lobster from Old Port Candy Co., to GrandyOats granola, it’s an updated taste of Maine.
“They are introducing people from away to quality Maine products,” said Knight, “It’s a new avenue, there has been quite an uptick in the past 18 months or so for e-tailers.”
To Knight, boxed gift services is a fresh take on bricks and mortar commerce. Some are “staple products, things that people remember like Moxie,” and others are hot off an artisan’s bench.
How will they all do?
“It’s anybody’s guess. Hard telling,” said Knight. “Those with business acumen and experience will survive.”