Family can help inspire some entrepreneurs to start companies that serve consumers with specific dietary needs or preferences. Be Free Co. Founder Tasha Rickard, for instance, discovered that her children both had allergies to dairy and milk products. Her journey into food sensitivity and food intolerance was difficult.
“I had no idea where to start,” what to buy, how to read ingredients labels or what to look for in the grocery store, Rickard told PYMNTS in an interview. “It was really overwhelming.” Sometimes she would sit down in the middle of a grocery store aisle on her phone and Google ingredients.
Over the years, however, she learned more and became talented at discovering new brands in grocery stores. And she saw that many people were starting to notice that they had problems with dairy and they were lactose intolerant. And they started coming to her for advice. They wanted to know what they should buy, where they should shop and how they should read an ingredients label. “I was talking to so many people every day,” Rickard said.
It just seemed like the world was going nuts, Rickard says, and nobody could have dairy. But “there’s a whole world out there” of dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan food that people don’t know about, Rickard said. And, while one can get a subscription box for pretty much everything these days, she didn’t see one that catered to a dairy-free or gluten-free market. She thought it would be good to have a subscription box to introduce consumers to new brands of food that they could test out before they went to the store.
Rickard ended up starting the Be Free Co., which she describes as a “really cool way for people to get introduced to new snacks, goodies, pantry items” every month. The company offers a few different plans ranging from a dairy-free only membership to a dairy-free and gluten-free membership. It also offers a vegan membership as well as a vegan and gluten-free version. Shoppers can visit her company’s website and choose one of her plans to sign up for a box. The platform also offers credit cards and PayPal as payment options during its checkout process for shoppers.
The Subscription Box
Each box is 99 percent soy-free, and customers receive seven to 10 (and sometimes more) snacks in each box. Items inside of the boxes can range from crackers to chips, nuts, cookies and muffins. The idea is to have all the bases covered and have something savory such as chips and crackers along with something sweet such as cookies, banana bread or muffins. There is usually a pantry item so that shoppers can make something. When it comes to the company’s target market, Rickard feels the box can touch on many people.
That market could include dietary-restricted people who need to be dairy-free because they are allergic or lactose intolerant. It could also include people who need to be gluten-free because they are intolerant or celiac. And it could also serve consumers who want to be dairy-free or gluten-free because they are health conscious. It could also serve people who live a certain way for ethical reasons (such as vegans or vegetarians). Rickard said she feels there is a “wide range of people who it would be good for or who it would reach.”
Members also receive a digital download of dairy-free and mainly gluten-free recipes. The recipes include ones she made over the years and those from her family. They also include recipes she found over the years and turned into her own in addition to recipes she made as written and credits the author. “It's 47 pages of dairy-free recipes” for dairy-free living to help people learn to cook with whole food ingredients and at home, Rickard said.
There are recipes for dishes like macaroni and cheese, Alfredo sauce and pizza. (In essence, the recipes cover foods that people think they would not be able to eat while living a dairy-free life but actually can enjoy.) The membership also comes with a private Facebook community where sneak peeks of what’s coming into Be Free and more recipes are shared.
With the help of online communities and memberships, eCommerce subscription services are connecting those with a restricted diet discover new foods and recipes that meet their nutritional needs.