For those who do set their graze box businesses up legitimately, registering with their local councils and procuring hygiene certificates, the Facebook trade can be disquieting. Jodie Robertson started The Happy Platter Company out of her London apartment at the beginning of the pandemic when her partner, a trained chef of 25 years, lost his regular work. Robertson sells her boxes via her website, not social media, and says she gets why people buy and sell graze boxes on Facebook, but also can see where they go wrong.
“I understand why people [sold them] through lockdown, I’m not giving anyone a hard time for that, it was a difficult time for so many people,” Robertson says. But, Robertson adds, that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable for people to ignore regulations or rip people off. “I think I can personally tell straight away if they’ve literally just gone to a supermarket and bought all the stuff. I think it’s a real kick to any customer when people go and do that,” she says.
Robertson’s partner makes the vast majority of the goods in the boxes himself, including the dips, jams, and chutneys, as well as breads and cakes. Robertson says a number of local copycats sprang up after they started their business, though many quit after realizing it wasn’t as easy as it seemed. “I guess it’s easy if you buy some cheap, flimsy cake boxes off Amazon and go to Lidl and buy stuff and plonk it in,” she says, explaining that there were “hidden costs” involved, such as sourcing a courier with a refrigerated van, finding a cheese supplier, and installing extra storage in their home. “We now have quite a few fridges in our flat,” she laughs.
Robertson says she believes people buy grazing boards and boxes because they want to post pictures of them online. The vast majority of her customers are women, mostly in their late twenties, although she has had the occasional customer in their sixties. “I think the popularity is just that it is very Instagrammable,” she says. Florence Swift, the 30-year-old founder of London-based Garner Graze, operates out of a studio space where she is licensed to make everything from bagels to banana bread from scratch. She also sells through a website rather than social media, and says 80 percent of her customers during lockdown were sending the boxes as gifts to friends.
“It was a lot of birthdays, ‘wish that we could be together,’ a lot of people sending them to friends who’ve just had kids. Sometimes it was just like, ‘I know everything’s a bit shit right now so I hope this makes you a bit happier,’” she says. Like Robertson, Swift says most of her customers are women, and her male customers are usually buying boxes for their girlfriends or sisters. Swift says when she first started her business in 2019, she was only aware of two other grazing companies in London. “And then with lockdown, there’s just so many now, it’s crazy.”