This article is the first in a two-part series based on interviews by David Orgel conducted with Boxed.com’s CEO Chieh Huang.

Food is the future.

That’s the private brand strategy for internet retailer Boxed.com, which recently surpassed 100 items under its three-year-old Prince & Spring private brand, said Chieh Huang, the company’s co-founder, and CEO.

The strategy is focused on a new generation of demanding shoppers, who favor clean labels and experimentation.

“What we’re finding is that a younger, modern shopper is very comfortable experimenting with new brands,” he said in an interview during the Food Marketing Institute’s Midwinter Executive Conference in Miami, where he was a keynote speaker on “The Future of Shopping.”

“These shoppers don’t need to see it on the shelf of a mainstream brick and mortar retailer to feel comfortable trying it,” he said in the interview. “And so that door is wide open.”

Boxed, which focuses on club-pack-type items, is gaining in its ability to produce innovative food products for this customer base, he said. One of its newest items is a clean-ingredient product called Jackpot Popcorn.

“When we started off, it was with household and personal care, stuff that goes on you or around you,” Huang said. “Then we went to food basics. But now, if you look at our latest food launches, such as our popcorn, we have to get the formula right, have to get the sweetness level right, the saltiness level right. That’s been the latest trend. We are gaining confidence that we can produce items that the customer wants in that way.”

Also critical is a high level of package design, said Huang, whose company has been a winner of the Vertex Award for private brands.

“If you look at the latest designs for Prince & Spring, it could be a national brand living on any store shelf anywhere,” he said. “And you wouldn’t feel like, ‘Oh, that’s a store brand.’ And so we’ve broken out of that mold and I think the consumer has reacted to it.”

Boxed sales from private brands represent about 14% of its total online sales, according to recent data from insights company 1010data. While Boxed plans to continue growing its private brand line, it doesn’t see the sky as the limit.

“We want to grow private brand,” he said. “It’s a good way for us to control the quality, control the pricing of a certain item. But with that said, we’re always very clear. We’re not going to be a hard discounter like Aldi. We’re not 80% to 90% private brand. The Boxed customer wants the national brand, and so we will always have to be a partner with the national brands.”

LOOK FOR THE SECOND ARTICLE IN THE SERIES NEXT WEDNESDAY.


Don’t miss Jeff Gamsey, VP of Private Brands at Boxed.com when he presents “Private Brand 2.0: The Next Generation of Prince & Spring At Boxed.Com” at this year’s Velocity: The My Private Brand Conference.