Michiganders may have a cottage up north, treat 50 degrees as “shorts weather” and consider Superman ice cream to be a symbol of their childhoods. Like people from any state, they have their own traditions, iconic locations and native foods. To help these consumers share the flavors of home by sending gifts from local producers, Mitten Crate allows them to buy products made in the state and ships them throughout the country. Shoppers can pick out a gift box to send to a relative in Florida, for example. Customers can also opt for a subscription on a month-to-month or three-month basis.
Mitten Crate uses Shopify Payments and Stripe on the backend for commerce (via an app called Recharge). Consumers can use credit cards, Apple Pay, PayPal, Google Pay or Amazon Pay for their purchases.
Products on the site range from beef jerky and spice rubs to BBQ sauce, trail mix, candied nuts and some unique products. In one case, the platform featured a company that offered all the ingredients to pickle vegetables in a bag. Other options have included shrubs, cocktail mixers and limited-edition products like pumpkin-spiced items. It’s all “nice, local, Michigan-made food products,” Founder Cory Wright told PYMNTS in an interview.
The company carries brands such as the Detroit Spice Company and Lush Gourmet (Nuts). When people try a crazy recipe for a hot sauce that uses locally grown peppers or other high-end ingredients and put it next to a regular national brand, “it doesn’t even compare,” Wright said.
While local products can be amazing, it can be challenging for small brands to gain traction. They can’t simply walk into a supermarket and ask to be put on a shelf. As Wright pointed out, food logistics and distribution is challenging and complex. That’s what the company initially set out to change.
When it comes to its target market, the company casts a wide net. The big draw, Wright said, is that someone has to have some type of allegiance to Michigan. In his case, he grew up there, spent summers in the area and was immersed in the Michigander lifestyle.
Mitten Crate has also found that college students attending University of Michigan may have developed an allegiance to the state, and may want to share local gifts with their families. The company also caters to snowbirds, shipping a large number of gifts to the warmer locales of southern and western states like Florida, Arizona, California and the Carolinas.
In addition to selling online, Mitten Crate also launched a retail storefront at the historic Eastern Market in March, which Wright said has been well-received. The store is described as “a quaint little shop, perfect for grabbing a few of your favorite local items or building a gift box packed with Michigan-made goods," per the company's website.
Overall, Wright said, the company’s mission is simple: to make it as easy as possible for people to give the gift of Michigan.
Beyond Mitten Crate, other digital innovators are curating selections of goods from particular states. Nuevo Food Box, for instance, offers a subscription box of food highlighting the flavors of New Mexico. The company features items such as salsa, green chile sauce, green chile popcorn and red chile jam. Consumers can purchase subscriptions as gifts for others.
From Nuevo Food Box to Mitten Crate, online retailers are aiming to give consumers a taste of home that can only come from foods made by local producers.