Thursday 29 October, 2020

Craving the Caribbean? Subscription food boxes have you covered

The Callaloo Box Trinbago Street Food Box. Photo courtesy Callaloo Box

The Callaloo Box Trinbago Street Food Box. Photo courtesy Callaloo Box

There is nothing that beats the euphoria of living abroad and finding somewhere that sells your favourite snacks, meals, drinks and ingredients from back home.

Now, thanks to some creative and entrepreneurial folks, you can have those items shipped directly to your door.

Food subscription boxes are becoming popular in the Caribbean diaspora market with many businesses popping up to give them a taste of home.

Callaloo Box is one of those companies.

Founded by Trinidadian sisters Malika and Jamila Augustine, Callaloo Box was born out of their experience living abroad and hearing complaints from other West Indians about the difficulties in finding products from back home.

Malika and Jamila Augustine, founders of Callaloo Box

“We both went to New York to go to college and there are so many West Indians living there that it is fairly easy to find local products back home but we heard from others outside of New York that it is so hard to find those products. After working in the corporate world for 14 years, we decided to do our own thing and we wanted a change of scenery we so we moved to Florida,” said Malika.

In Florida, they decided to start a business to connect the diaspora with their needs and to give everyone a taste of T&T.

At first, they came up with the name, Taste of Home but it was too generic and they wanted a more Caribbean word. Callaloo, a popular dish in T&T which incorporates several ingredients, seemed perfect.

 “Everything comes together to create this amazing dish,” said Jamila.

With a subscription box, you pay a fee to get a monthly box. The contents of the box are determined by the supplier and, in the case of Callaloo Box, they are sometimes themed in accordance with the particular significance of the month. So, for instance, this month, in which Divali is observed, the box is an Indo-Caribbean box containing curry powder, turmeric, coconut oil, kurma and mango chutney, among other items. The box also includes a recipe.

“We pick a fun theme and every item relates to that, last month the theme was Drinks so we did peanut punch, tea, Milo and mauby. For Carnival we did a Creole box too,” said Malika.

Callaloo Box ships to customers across the US and while they do get orders from the United Kingdom and Canada, shipping costs can be prohibitive.

The sisters source products from suppliers in Miami since they can only sell products that are certified to enter the US market.

Jamila said while they would love to expand their product offering, the US has very strict rules on products allowed to enter.

When the women started the company in 2017, they used word of mouth marketing, using Caribbean social media influencers who love to cook to market the service by sending boxes for them to sample.

Although waiting to be surprised every month is thrilling, there are those who prefer to choose what products they buy. To cater to those customers, Callaloo Box has expanded to incorporate an online supermarket.

“We started solely as a subscription box but we heard from current customers or those who would message us on social media that they wanted the ability to shop a la carte so we launched Callaloo Grocery two to three months into the business,” explained Jamila.

She said that when they have new products, they will add it to the boxes first before making them available in the grocery.

The sisters, who are a year apart in age, said they are always brainstorming and thinking of ways to expand their business.

“We want the brand to be an experience. We want to be a one-stop-shop to keep you connected in the diaspora,” said Malika.

Among the people they are targeting are those second-generation Americans who have never lived in the Caribbean.

 “We want when people think about a Caribbean product, they think about Callaloo Box,” they said.


Here are some other Food Subscription Services you can find online

Tasty Island Crate: Jamaican subscription box company supplying Caribbean snacks across the US.

CariBento: Jamaican company offering bi-monthly and quarterly boxes with authentic teas, coffees, spices, sauces and snacks from Jamaica, Trinidad, Bahamas and Barbados.

Abuela Mami: Cuban company based in Miami offering Cuban food, snacks, memorabilia, mugs and kitchen tools.

JamboxJa: Based in Jamaica, this company offers Jamaican snacks and spices

Jamaican Care Packages: Jamaica-based company that offers Jamaican snacks and drinks

My Trini Box: Trinidadian company that delivers boxes abroad and within T&T with snacks, drinks, spices and clothing

Island Surprise: Subscription boxes that offer everything from coffee to spices from the region.


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