A long-admired model in the CPG business has been refillable razor blades. The basic idea is that brands like Gillette don’t make their money on the handles, but on the refillable razor cartridges that need to be replaced every week.

It’s a model worth admiring because it naturally creates repeat business. Once you buy into a specific platform, you’re all but committed to buying refills from the same brand for an extended period of time. Gillette (or Shick, etc.) were automatically part of your weekly shopping list every time you went to the supermarket.

Then, in the last few years, category disruptors Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s have brought the razor category into the 21st century by offering refills by online subscription, at far lower prices. Their effect on the razor industry is undeniable.

Could this model work in other areas, like the food/home appliance category? Tovala is betting on it.

If you’re not familiar, Tovala is an oven, about the size of a standard microwave, but very different. It’s not a microwave at all, but a combination conventional, convection and steam oven.

And, of course, it’s connected to the internet. And that’s where it gets real interesting.

One doesn’t buy a Tovala as just another cooking appliance (though you could). The real value of Tovala lies in the mail-order meals you can have delivered to your doorstep. Each meal comes packaged in several cooking vessels that you simply pop into the Tovala oven.

Then, all you need to do is scan the barcode on the packaging, and the Tovala oven takes over, automatically baking and/or steaming your meal to perfection.

If you’re thinking this sounds like one of those lousy microwaved TV dinners, think again. The resulting meal (Tovala claims) is high-quality, made from fresh ingredients and chef-designed recipes.

The real question is, will this catch on? And if so, what effects will be felt throughout the rest of the home appliance, food, grocery, and even home design industries?

Obviously, we don’t know to what degree this will catch on. If we did, we’d already be investors in Tovala. But we think the idea has some lessons that other brands and even entire categories in the home & building industry should heed.

We’re fairly confident there will always be a critical mass of people who simply like to cook. But if the Tovala model gains traction…

How will that drive people’s need for refrigeration and food storage? Will people start buying smaller refrigerators because their meals will just be delivered every day? Or will they keep their big fridges and just buy more beer?

What are the implications for cookware, grocery stores, and even kitchen design? Will kitchens even need to be as big as they are now? Will kitchens even be necessary at all?

Most importantly, how might the subscription razor blade model be applied to other areas of the home?


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