Sunday, June 24, 2018
Dining

Review: How snack subscription boxes NatureBox, Graze, Love with Food and Treatsie stack up

Call it the Amazon Effect, this idea that you can order anything online and it will show up at your doorstep a few days later. We're used to it for things like toilet paper and electronics. But mail delivery services have by now fully taken over the world of food, too, for everything from fast food to groceries to home cooking.

And now snacks.

Like recipe delivery services Blue Apron, HelloFresh and the rest were a year or so ago, snack delivery services are on the rise.

These are even more straightforward than the home cooking-oriented boxes that show up with prepackaged ingredients and directions that make whipping up a meal relatively easy. Snack services like NatureBox, and more niche ones like Treatsie, merely send boxes of prepackaged snacks to you monthly or even weekly. We tried four of them — NatureBox, Graze, Treatsie and Love With Food — to see what they're all about.

Some, like NatureBox and its closest counterpart Graze, develop their own snacks, making it a point to advertise their products as more carefully crafted than something you may pick up at the grocery store. Others, like Love With Food, just send a curated collection of snacks from brands you've seen on the shelf.

If this all sounds a bit silly, well, yes, the idea can seem odd. Why do I need someone to mail me snacks, arguably the most useless of all food items?

These services play into a larger food trend: eating around the clock, instead of just at mealtime. As nutrition experts continue to push smaller meals throughout the day, the idea of reaching for a snack 10 times a day — a granola bar for breakfast, a banana a few hours later, some trail mix an hour after that — seems more and more common.

If you eat like that, snack boxes offer a smarter way to do it than chowing down on a bag of Lay's.

For the most part, the snacks offered in these services are snacks in the most basic, satisfying sense: salty pretzels and trail mix, candy-coated nuts, fruit chews, cookies, granola bars. But there are low-calorie options, like dried fruit or raw nut mixes, and NatureBox in particular is smart about dividing its snacks into categories like "low sodium" and "less than 150 calories."

Plus, all of the boxes we tried were conscious about their ingredients, and tried to keep things clean. NatureBox promises "no artificial junk (colors, flavors or sweeteners), no high fructose corn syrup, no MSG" in its snacks. Love With Food sends items you're more likely to find in health food stores, snacks that are organic or all-natural and, again, "free of artificial junk." Overall, each snack's ingredient list seems more friendly than the chemicals and color dyes in Doritos.

These services' most redeemable quality is convenience. It was nice to have a box delivered to my workplace, the one place I am often desperate for snacks. And most of the boxes deliver preportioned treats that are easy to transport, eat and dispose of.

That's what you're really paying for with these services, which can seem pricey. The cheapest one we tried was Graze, which sells eight-snack boxes for $11.99 each. (Snacks range from just less than an ounce to just more than an ounce, so they're small.) The rest start at around $20 a box. It doesn't feel like a ripoff, especially when compared to how many high-quality snacks you can buy in the grocery store for the same amount, but you're definitely paying a premium for convenience.

For the average person, these services seem most appropriate as gifts — to a college freshman who's probably living off snacks anyway, to a chocolate lover celebrating a birthday, to a kid away at camp — instead of weekly or monthly subscriptions.

Contact Michelle Stark at [email protected] or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17.

     
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