Avoiding the subscription death curve → Watch on-demand video

Making complex, personalized meal subscriptions scalable

Industry:

Food and Beverage

Market:

Subscription meal delivery

The company

Healthy eating made easy, delicious, and personalized

“We’re a ready-to-eat meal delivery company, but what we really deliver to our customers is time,” says Trae Halkitis, chief technology officer at Metabolic Meals. Since 2009, the St. Louis, MO-based company has been delivering fresh, organic, pre-prepared, nutritionally dense meals in ready-to-heat and eat containers directly to customers’ doors. While the brand’s goal is to help people “re-gain complete control of [their] nutrition by eliminating the stress and time associated with meal planning and preparation,” the true result is giving people back their most precious resource: time.

“We give customers time to do what they want — whether that’s investing in their career, spending more time with family or keeping up with a fitness routine,” he says of Metabolic Meals subscribers who include a diverse mix of professionals, athletes and busy parents.

The company’s growth has surpassed over 3,200 weekly subscribers with 25,000 meals shipped each week to 48 states across the U.S. Meals include mouth watering options like Backyard BBQ Chicken with Cheesy Tex-Mex Cauli-Mash, Teriyaki Grass-Fed Beef and Broccoli and Biscuits and Gravy Casserole with Organic Free-Range Turkey Sausage.

Metabolic Meals offers a highly customizable meal subscription program called MyChoice subscription. Customers select the meals they want from a menu of 45 different choices that are refreshed each week. They can choose the number of meals, portion size, and can make selections based on nutritional preferences, including gluten-free, allergy-free, low carb, diabetic friendly and others.

Efficiently offering this level of personalization in a weekly meal subscription requires clear business requirements and sophisticated software. Metabolic Meals spent more than 10 years building a custom software platform in an effort to meet their exact needs. However, as the company grew nationally, Halkitis knew a change was needed to offer greater personalization for customers and reach the next level of success.

The challenge

Software limitations stifled growth

The custom software powering Metabolic Meals had supported the company as it expanded from a local, small business to an industry-leading, national company. Yet it left Halkitis with challenges that hamstrung innovation and scaling: a rigid custom platform with limited agility and a need for regular, hands-on maintenance, particularly around increasingly complicated price rules.

One of the constraints of the custom platform was that it did not support mixed cart transactions, meaning when a customer wants to include a one-off purchase with a subscription in the same transaction. “If customers wanted to buy just a protein shaker, we could not sell it to them on our custom platform because of how it was built solely for subscription transactions.”

Challenges like this required Metabolic Meals’ development team to regularly build out new features from scratch, slowing the pace of innovation and speed to market due to development time, testing, rollouts, rollbacks and iterations.

"We couldn’t move fast enough because we had so many business rules to account for in our platform."
Trae Halkitis CTO, Metabolic Meals

“We couldn’t move fast enough because we had so many business rules to account for in our platform. In addition, there is a very high operating cost when it comes to maintaining custom solutions. Things like hosting services, updates, quality assurance, and PCI compliance. Custom building everything became a drag on our ability to grow. There’s a fine line between custom being positive and custom being bad for a business and it all has to do with return on investment — not only measured in dollars but also in time,” says Halkitis.

“If we wanted to expand our subscription offering and grow our one time purchases, it would take a lot of development. To expand our offerings, we needed to replace our tech stack and we needed a partner to help us get there faster,” he says.

The solution

Building the foundation for continued growth

With scalability on their minds, Halkitis and Barbour began exploring SaaS subscription solutions to take Metabolic Meals to the next level. That’s how they found Bold Commerce.

“We had this moment like — woah — this is very similar to the subscription system we already built, but it's a product. It allows us to take our entire subscription operating platform and condense it into a product. This will allow us to scale up very quickly, and leverage an innovation roadmap going forward” he recalls.

While Halkitis considered other solutions, the ability to meet their need for complex pricing rules and the new sales tax requirements came up short. In some cases, other platforms required too much additional custom development, which diminished the benefits of a SaaS approach.

Not long after discovering Bold, he was on a call with the team to map an approach for the next iteration of Metabolic Meals. “I cannot speak more highly of the Launch Team I worked with at Bold,” he says. “I was so impressed with how they brought in people from the various [product teams] to talk with me about my needs. Bold is a partner and has the talent necessary to fold our business rules into their processes.”

Metabolic Meals chose Bold’s Checkout Experience Suite, which combines Bold Checkout, Price Rules, and Subscriptions, as well as leveraging Bold’s APIs to integrate with Metabolic Meals’ proprietary artificial intelligence meal selector, MealTrack.

"In some cases, other platforms required too much additional custom development, which diminished the benefits of a SaaS approach."
Trae Halkitis CTO, Metabolic Meals
How Bold and Metabolic Meals power personalized subscriptions

Metabolic Meals’ technology and Bold’s solutions work together to deliver a unique, engaging and personalized subscription experience for customers. A walk through of the subscriber journey illustrates how the solution works.

Combining subscription capabilities with conditional pricing

The journey of a Metabolic Meals’ subscription starts with a new customer placing their order for freshly prepared meals delivered weekly. The first step a new customer will take is entering their zip code into the order page. This triggers a menu of meal options selections customized based on the location of the customer.

Once selections are made, the frontend of the platform will reach out to Bold’s Subscriptions via APIs to fetch the menu available for that specific location. The frontend presents those options to customers, allowing them to make selections and fill their subscription order.

At the same time, the customer’s zip code is used to provide location-based pricing for food items via Bold Price Rules. Metabolic Meals uses the highest quality ingredients, which can mean fluctuating pricing for meals depending on the location orders are fulfilled in. With Price Rules and a custom plugin that translates zip codes to prices, Metabolic Meals’ has the capability to serve unique pricing for each item based on a key identifier — in this case customer location.

Creating a highly customized checkout experience

Once a subscriber completes their weekly selection of meals, Bold Subscriptions takes customers’ selections and organizes it into a subscription order and prepares this information for Bold Checkout to build out the specific cost for each personalized subscription selection. Subscribers then proceed through Bold Checkout.

One key checkout feature for Metabolic Meals is the ability to use persistent discount codes. The company has customer segments — like long-time customers, corporate customers, employee discounts or new customers from ad campaigns — who receive discount codes that expire once specific conditions are met. For example, 10% off for the first six weeks of orders. “Persistent discount codes give us the ability to be very creative and strategic with our discounts,” says Halkitis.

"Persistent discount codes give us the ability to be very creative and strategic with our discounts."
Trae Halkitis CTO, Metabolic Meals

Beyond leveraging out-of-the box capabilities, Metabolic Meals looked to customize their checkout experience, such as incorporating incentives like free shipping and loyalty points to convert customers to a subscription.

Working with Bold, Metabolic Meals added checkout customizations including:
  1. Free shipping on the first order: Metabolic Meals waives shipping costs on a customer’s first order using custom logic built into checkout.
  2. Loyalty points: Integration of Bold Checkout with the Metabolic Meals loyalty program allows customers to redeem loyalty points for discounts on a future subscription order.
  3. Minimum order threshold: Bold Checkout incorporates logic through a customization to ensure the minimum number of selections for a given zip code are met before a customer can complete their order.

Bold Checkout is flexible and highly customizable thanks to its API-first architecture. This means Metabolic Meals can tailor the checkout experience to meet — and exceed — business needs and customer expectations now and well into the future.

Added flexibility with API-powered integrations

To enhance and support an improved subscriber experience schedule, Metabolic Meals developed a proprietary artificial intelligence (AI) program called Meal Track. Instead of subscribers having to meet a cut off time for meal selection each week, Meal Track uses customer profile information and previous meal selections to build a personalized mix of meals.

Using Bold’s APIs, the team built an integration to Bold Subscriptions to ensure meal selections are made on time. When the deadline for meal selections arrives, Meal Track pings Subscriptions through the integration to identify what subscriptions need selections. Meal Track makes its individual selections for each subscription and sends those choices back to Subscriptions, which then pulls in the correct pricing from Price Rules and serves it all to Checkout to complete the order.

“We worked with Bold to develop a solution that is this beautiful Rosetta Stone that harnesses Meal Track information to inform Bold Subscriptions. Our business rules remain intact for our configurations and Bold has the information it needs to process the subscription,” says Halkitis.

"Our business rules remain intact for our configurations and Bold has the information it needs to process the subscription."
Trae Halkitis CTO, Metabolic Meals

The deep collaboration between Bold and Metabolic Meals has been a highlight of the project for Halkitis and a source of excitement for the future. “We have a partner that fully understands our business now, and that's a big thing,” he says. “We've not seen other companies understand our business rules as well as the Bold team has. Having a partner who understands our business rules, and our growth objectives is a big benefit for us.”

The Opportunity

Technology that taps growth potential

With a modern subscriptions platform, Metabolic Meals is positioned to accelerate new subscription capabilities along with additional ecommerce strategies, such as cross sell and upsell.

"With Bold, we can add in new capabilities in a matter of days instead of weeks. We have faster time to market through quicker development cycles."
Trae Halkitis CTO, Metabolic Meals

The Bold-powered subscription model platform has also removed growth constraints for Metabolic Meals. “We have the ability to grow exponentially faster on this platform because of how it's built. We’re planning to expand our product offering to include a more personalized nutritional experience. The environment allows us to very quickly add and test new products, and create new funnels to get people into Metabolic Meals and then transition them into the MyChoice plan,” he says.

Metabolic Meals has plans to expand the types of customized meal delivery subscriptions available to customers, including curated experiences. The company is currently engaged in studies with educational institutions, such as Harvard University, to test the impact of specific meal plans on health conditions, such as diabetes, Alzheimer's, or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Results will be used to inform, scientifically backed meal plans to help improve people’s health.

“This allows us to give people what they need to succeed and to also give them options once those needs change,” says Halkitis. For example, individuals may sign up for keto meals to lose weight and, once they reach their goal, they can sign up for the standard MyChoice plan. “That's a benefit that we don't currently have. It makes it easier to cross sell and upsell based on subscriber history and behaviors,” he adds.

The Future

Meeting subscribers where they are with added digital touchpoints

Metabolic Meals is focused on new ways to deliver convenience for their customers enabled by Bold’s APIs. One innovation that’s top of the list is voice-enabled subscription ordering and management.

“Most of us have many different ways to engage voice-enabled assistants at any time. It is a big opportunity to offer our consumers the ability to order their weekly meals through an assistant. It allows our customers to more easily get the product they already love in a more convenient way. It’s exciting because it makes the order process shorter for all of our customers. We’re always working to give our customers time back in their lives,” says Halkitis.

Now Metabolic Meals has the foundation it needs to scale its existing subscription model, and expand what it means to provide healthy meal options to customers. “We’re aiming to add wholesale, dropshipping, and to expand beyond ready-to-eat meals to introduce a healthy, online grocery experience. The next 12 months at Metabolic Meals are going to be very exciting,” says Halkitis.

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