Daily Harvest is testing offline retail with its first pop-up store

Daily Harvest, the online meal delivery service that sells frozen soups, smoothies and bowls on a weekly or monthly basis, is opening a Manhattan pop-up on Nov. 14 to pull in potential customers.

The Daily Harvest “Refueling Station,” designed in partnership with creative agency The Gathery to look like a 1970s Palm Springs gas station, gives visitors free samples of several Daily Harvest products, a walk-through of its ingredient sourcing process, an explainer on the benefits of frozen foods, and a chance to win products with faux scratch tickets. Located at 446 Broadway in SoHo, customers can also buy individual items, like a Blueberry & Hemp smoothie or a Mushroom & Miso soup, and take them to go. The focus is on brand awareness and direct sales, rather than driving Daily Harvest’s weekly or monthly subscriptions (individual items aren’t available to purchase on the company’s website).

“This is meant to drive direct sales. The one thing we know about our customers is that they need to taste it to understand why it’s different,” said Daily Harvest CEO and founder Rachel Drori. “So we want to meet customers offline, and interact with them there.”

Daily Harvest launched in 2015 and has so far raised $43 million in funding in three rounds, with high-profile investors including Gwyneth Paltrow, Bobby Flay and Serena Williams, as well as firm Lightspeed Venture Partners. So far, it’s been running an online-only, subscription-only model, so testing the waters of new retail channels is the natural next step. Digitally native brands have moved offline, in both temporary and permanent stores, chasing a new outlet for customer acquisition and awareness as digital marketing plateaus; subscription brands have shifted focus to e-commerce, like Birchbox, or pivoted to a more flexible membership model, like MeUndies.

And scaling meal delivery services has been tested online. Blue Apron, which sells meal kits by subscription, is partnering with Jet.com after losing customers. Sakara Life, a digital brand selling fresh, prepared meals, power bars and other supplements, has started selling products in wellness retailers to grow awareness.

“Subscriptions give you a nice, tight grip on your customer, but there’s a much higher barrier to entry,” said Chris Paradysz, the founder of the agency PMX.

Drori said Daily Harvest is targeting a different customer than other meal services on the market — unlike meal kits, Daily Harvest prep only takes a few minutes, and since the products are frozen, they don’t perish. She said that so far, the brand has built awareness and acquired customers through all the usual digital marketing engines, with Instagram advertisements and podcast spots being among the biggest drivers. By testing physical retail through a pop-up store, Drori said there’s “no agenda” other than to introduce more people to Daily Harvest’s brand and food selection, but that the company will be paying attention to see how it performs.

“We’re proud of our ability in general as a company to test things, see how customers respond, and then react quickly,” said Drori.

Data influences Daily Harvest’s regular production schedule: It owns its supply chain, and can make new products on an eight-week cycle. To gather feedback from the pop-up, all Daily Harvest employees will take turns being on the grounds, talking to customers at checkout and as they go through the experience. Visitors will also be given cards when they enter the pop-up so they can record what flavors they liked best (there are both smoothie and lunch and breakfast samples on hand to try), which will then be given to the staff.

“Getting to interact with customers is fundamental to the soul of our business,” said Drori.

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