Boxed.com Eyes ‘Free for All’ in Food Retail Battle

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

    Boxed.com is thinking out of the box as it battles in an increasingly crowded food retail space.

    The company, an e-commerce retail disruptor that sells brand and private brand bulk-pack items, expects the playing field to get even more intense in the near future, said Chieh Huang, the company’s co-founder and CEO.

    “I think it is a free for all right now,” 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.”

    “I think that makes it harrowing because big, big companies want a piece of this space. But it makes it exciting because those same big companies haven’t figured it out yet either.”

    The major payoff in the battle is victory in this retail segment.

    “There are no bigger prizes than food retail, when it comes to these kind of entrepreneurial endeavors,” he said.  “That makes it really exciting.”

    Boxed recently surpassed 100 items available in its three-year-old Prince & Spring private brand line. The company’s sales from private brand represent about 14% of its total online sales, according to recent data from insights company 1010data.

    Boxed is aware that it will need partnerships to gain capabilities, such as for omnichannel or fresh foods. For example, it does not have physical stores, or fresh foods fulfillment out of its centers.

    “I feel like pure play by itself will not be the winning answer, and neither will just brick and mortar,” he said. “Everyone’s starting to partner with each other, or trying to develop capabilities.”

    In one example, Boxed is experimenting in a few markets with local grocer partnerships to offer fresh foods fulfillment to customers.

    “The whole industry is so fluid right now, that we’d be remiss if we weren’t testing all the time.”

    Ongoing testing is also imperative at the company’s fulfillment centers, in which Boxed is already known for its advanced strategies with automation, robotics, and software. The company’s current fulfillment centers are located in states including New Jersey, Georgia and Texas, and Nevada.

    Boxed is aiming to match fulfillment center scale to the needs of local markets.

    “Can we get it to a smaller fulfillment center with our own robotics, our own software?” he asked. “It may not pump out the hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars that a big fulfillment center can, but the cap X would be minuscule compared to it. So, it’s sliding scale.”


    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.