No longer a ‘startup’: Bulu Box goes from samples to subscriptions

No longer a ‘startup’: Bulu Box goes from samples to subscriptions

With its core business of sending boxes of health food and dietary supplement samples to consumers’ doorsteps, Bulu Box has enjoyed 300% revenue growth from 2014 to 2017. It's staff is poised to grow from 25 to 50+ by December 2017, and it plans to ship more than 2 million sample boxes in 2017—that’s more than 14 times its boxes shipped in 2016

Founded in 2012 as a startup that connects manufacturers to consumers, Bulu Box is shedding its startup skin and testing new waters. It has pivoted its focus to include a lucrative, up-and-coming segment: Subscription service.

“Over time, we’ve just had hundreds of companies contact us, asking us about subscription boxes [and] what software we use,” Paul Jarrett, CEO of Bulu Box, told NutraIngredients-USA. “We are pioneers in the industry. We were the sixth or seventh sample box, we were the first that wasn’t make-up.”

Soon enough, Bulu Box’s small staff based in Nebraska started to get calls about their business model from Fortune 500 companies (which Jarrett can’t disclose at the moment). “I thought, ‘Why are these big, multi-billion dollar companies calling us, and why aren’t we calling them back?”

A new 'B2B consultancy' endeavor

Soon enough, companies started offering prices of how much they’ll pay Bulu Box to help them create and administer a subscription box for them—a ‘private label’ service, in a way, where Bulu Box collects the data, handles logistics, sends the box, using only products from paying companies. 

“We thought we should really entertain the idea,” Jarrett said. Starting just shy of a year ago, on top of, the company added another core business of turnkey subscription box services. To date, they work with supplement companies from startups to multi-billion, and are in the talks with a pharmaceutical company.

“As pioneers, we understand to a detailed level the challenges and what do people need to track in terms of metrics, legal issues that might arise, and so on,” he said. “So we can create a carbon copy of for these companies.”

From sampling to subscribing

A big part of knowing and experiencing the efficacy of dietary supplements is consumer compliance. With the sampling model, customer turnover was a big part of this, as well as switching up dietary supplements.

But Jarrett said the sampling component is still very important, especially as a means to collect data and forecast to know which products can convert a sampler to repeat buyer, or even subscriber.

To sign up to any Bulu Box service, customers fill out profiles, providing demographic details to Bulu Box’ database. Then, when they sample products, there are additional questions to learn what the customer thought of the products.

“What we found out, and it’s been super enlightening to me, a lot of supplement companies think about [if] the product tastes good and if the packaging is cool,” he said. “But our data has enlightened that there are nine different variables that consumers are consciously and subconsciously assessing with your product.”

Not only are there more variables than what most manufacturers think about, but these variables change per item (an example Jarrett used was a vanilla-flavored product versus a chocolate). So at the Bulu Box offices, employees have a game: “We bet on what the highest converting product will be, we’ve been doing it for over 5 years, and nobody is consistent.”

“What we’ve learned is that unless you sample, there’s no way you’re going to know if something is going to work out or not.”

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Comments (1)

Sierra - 22 Mar 2017 | 08:48


Love Bulu Box! This is awesome :) But I was subscribed to Conscious Box in 2011 -- they were an awesome health food sample subscription and the one that actually turned me on to Bulu!

22-Mar-2017 at 20:48 GMT

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