For anyone who has ever visited New York City — even for a short amount of time — there's a certain vibe you pick up on immediately when you walk the crowded streets. The never-ending pursuit of getting from point A to point B in the fastest amount of time possible results in memorable on the go experiences like eating lunch at the halal carts, absorbing the news at curbside stands, and of course, hearing the elevator pitch from someone trying to sell you on the latest and greatest in music, fashion, and religion. But thanks to advances in social media, there's a new hustle on the New York City streets — equally and as rapidly delivered as the aforementioned experiences — that is adding a salty and savory kick to the already tasty melting pot.
Dario Torres and Taylor Trachtenberg are the young entrepreneurs behind the business TheSuperSnackStore — an Instagram account turned mobile business — that is exposing people to the rarest international gems from the snack and beverage world. When they pull up, park, and pop the trunk, those looking inside bear witness to a technicolor world that feels equal parts Hustle Man from Martin as it does Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
Inspired first and foremost by their love for all things snack-related, the duo hypothesized that there would be a market comprised of similar minded people out there dying to sample items that were only available overseas. Torres admits that had it been several years earlier, he probably would have been one of the countless millions selling shoes for resale profit. But as that sneaker business became more of a a red ocean than a blue ocean — indicating less of a path forward toward profitability and growth — he decided to take his chance on acquiring items like rare Oreo cookies and bottles of Fanta, than pairs of Off-White™ sneakers.
"I know this is crazy, but $25 for a soda that you can only get in a Chinese vending machine is cool," Torres says.
What was perhaps the hardest hurdle to overcome was the acquisition of the products themselves. It would be one thing to bring back a couple of bags of chips while passing through the airport in a different country, but that speaks to personal usage, not a business strategy. Similarly, flying to far off places, and sending back inventory, would eat — no pun intended — into profits. Thus, not unlike a sneaker reseller who finds methods to score numerous pairs of shoes (and cuts in the plug on the profit)‚ TheSuperSnackStore has created an infrastructure of junk food conduits in key markets across the globe like Japan, China, Canada, England, Chile, and the Dominican Republic. He specifically cites Japan as the epicenter for junk food, and a major reason why business is flourishing for the young entrepreneurs.
"The packaging and the marketing is insane," he says. "The flavors are crazy and the taste is very fresh. Just Asia in general, they're doing their thing with the Cheetos and the Oreos."
Most junk food relies on continuing cultural norms in a particular country. Countless generations of Americans have grown up on the neon twinge of regular Cheetos, or that tried-and-true taste of an ice-cold Coca-Cola. Similarly, other countries have the snack food equivalent of these products. But because regional cooking differs, a Japanese Cheeto or Dorito might be loaded up with products meant to mimic flavors like seafood, wasabi, yuzu, or hot mustard.
Whereas TheSuperSnackStore could have relied on this simple strategy of importing foreign products, they've also gone a step further. Regardless of the country, there are limited edition products on the shelves to coincide with everything from a holiday (Halloween) to a movie release. As such, they've received feedback from people living in foreign countries indicating that their selection contains rarities they've never even seen before.
"They'll come out with a limited edition peach Kit Kat for like two weeks, and it's only on the shelves," Torres says. "It's just like how Virgil comes out with just a certain amount of pair of kicks, it's the same thing out there. Kit Kat will only release it in Tokyo for like two or three weeks, and then that's it. It's never going to be seen again."
From a strategy standpoint, there is a hierarchy to the snack hype. Rare beverages like Fanta Golden Grape or Fanta Double White Peach are amongst the most unique, and also the most expensive.
"The Japanese sodas are top shelf snacks right now," they say.
The food items themselves are usually priced similarly regardless if they're salty or sweet. With a $100 to spend, one could expect to walk away with between five to six items at TheSuperSnackStore like Korea's Dorito's Honey Chili, Japan's Ritz Cracker Chocolate Sandwiches, and Taiwan's LAY's Thai BBQ Shrimp.
What is perhaps most refreshing about what TheSuperSnackStore is doing, is they're operating in a space that relies on rarity and hype, and encouraging people to actually enjoy the experience of it all. In the world of sneakers, the "fun" is usually the profits associated with flipping a sneaker. With snacks, the payoff is the experience of actually eating it.
Coupled with the success of Travis Scott's special edition Reese’s Puffs cereal box, and Tyler, The Creator's collaboration on an ice cream, TheSuperSnackStore is operating in a hyped space where exclusivity and usability can finally converge. For as much as the duo has enjoyed the success, they also understand that there's fun in not growing too large. At this scale, they can personally still load up the car and deliver the snacks across the city.
"I know people hear this very often from tons of businesses but we are actually out there, face to face contact with our customers and what you see is what you get," Trachtenberg says. "The personal touch of getting your orders right at your door step with an actual smile and hopefully someone you can relate to when it comes to a passion for the snacks. Customer service I feel is at an all time low especially with Internet businesses, we are the ones that are able to change that and make a difference. The SuperSnackStore is bringing that back and I think our customers feel that with each delivery, post, and giveaway."