Box it up: Craft spirits expand with curated subscriptions

By Beth Newhart

- Last updated on GMT

Most spirits without a mass-market audience are confined to serving their local region and rely on word of mouth to buoy sales. Shots Box wants to change that.
Most spirits without a mass-market audience are confined to serving their local region and rely on word of mouth to buoy sales. Shots Box wants to change that.

Related tags craft beverages craft spirits Us

With the growing affinity for craft alcohol in the US, startup company Shots Box delivers a range of craft spirits samples to the subscription box market. It expands the footprint of craft distillers who would otherwise be limited by regional distribution.

Subscription boxes have taken off in popularity in the last decade, offering everything from beauty and personal care items to dog toys and meal kits. Alcohol has long been a part of the home delivery service with the ‘wine of the month’ concept dating back to the 1970s.

Shots Box has entered the market this season with its own take on alcohol delivery. Each monthly membership box, valued at $39.99, contains 10 miniature craft spirits samples. It may contain a few of the same liquor types each month, and occasionally a repeat distiller, but all 10 samples are unique. At just 50 ml each, the bottles mirror the tiny samples found on airplanes and hotels in size.

Founder JC Stock came up with the idea to support his love for craft spirits and help independent distillers expand their reach and customer base. Most spirits without a mass-market audience are confined to serving their local region and rely on word of mouth to buoy sales. But with Shots Box shipping samples out nationwide, more craft drinkers are able to try lesser-known spirits than ever before.

The boxes also include cocktail recipes to go along with each sample to teach consumers how to correctly enjoy the spirits. It gives them the best chance at liking the taste, which could be compromised by a mistake like using a sweet-flavored gin in a dry martini.

Breaking the mold

Stock considers Shots Box a level up from existing craft liquor subscription services because of the size element. Competitors will take a page out of the ‘wine of the month’ club book and send a different full-size craft whiskey every month or quarter.

While this model allows members to try new spirits, it can only offer one or two brands every month, meaning there’s the risk of the customer not liking the offering and being stuck with a wasted full bottle. And if they dislike two months in a row, there’s a much higher chance of them canceling the service.

It also doesn’t solve the retail problem: if a customer enjoys a spirit from Seattle distillery received in a subscription box, but happens to live across the country, they usually have no means of purchasing it from home.

Shots Box knew that its nationwide members may want to buy more of what they try, so it opened a fully licensed brick-and-mortar liquor store in California. It also sells the full-size of spirits featured in the boxes on its website​ so customers can easily order from a distiller that may be so small it doesn’t accommodate online ordering.

Spreading the craft movement

Stock points to the craft beverage movement in the US as reason for the success of services like this, and told BeverageDaily, “it’s starting to get noticed. There’s more of a public awareness that there are people out there with this love and passion.”

​[They] only make a little bit of it, and they don’t necessarily mass produce, but this is something that they are doing because they have passion. Giving these retailers that outlet to take advantage of that movement, that’s where there was a void.”

Stock says the team fields constant inquiries from new distillers about featuring in the box because doing so immediately gives them a national tasting room, drawing in more customers to the fact that more options exist beyond what mass market choices the public finds on liquor shelves.

“These craft distillers are a blast. They are good people and they have heart and soul and they put it all into it. The artisans are great people and it’s definitely a void that needed to be filled,”​ he said.

Giving back year-round

Shots Box is teaming up with the Thirst Project this holiday season and committing to raising $12,000 in the next year to help end the global water crisis. For every two full-size liquor bottles ordered through Shots Box, 50 cents from the purchase will be donated to the Thirst Project, which will provide one person with clean drinking water for a year.

“Giving back is something that has been near to my heart since my son was born and had to be hospitalized. That experience put the value of community into perspective for me and as a result, I strive for all my business ventures to be socially conscious,”​ Stock said.

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