Why bulk is better for some CPG brands like Mariani and Apothekary

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DTC wellness brand Apothekary makes a variety of herbal supplements, from caffeine alternatives to gut health formulas. But its most popular products are its alcohol alternative tinctures that can be added to water. That’s why, in April, Apothekary rolled out a 100 milliliter-size bottle of its red and white wine alternatives, amounting to about 100 servings.

“We got so much feedback of, ‘I’m buying two to three of these bottles, can you just come up with a big one?’” said founder Shizu Okusa.

Apothekary is just one of many brands that are finding putting more product in a package becomes a way to close the deal with price-conscious consumers.

A consumer digest from retail data firm 84.51 found that nearly three in four consumers buy in bulk. The most popular items tend to be paper products, household cleaners or shelf-stable items. Meanwhile, club stores that are known for bulk buys are faring well; Costco’s net sales for the third quarter were $57.39 billion, an increase of 9.1% year over year. Sam’s Club, owned by Walmart, saw a 4.6% jump in net sales for the first quarter of its 2025 fiscal year and is seeing record membership gains.

But for brands, going bulk requires a strategy beyond just putting it in a bigger bottle or box. Apothekary coupled its supersized product with a lower per-serving price. While a one-month supply of the red wine alternative Wine Down is $39, the new 100-milliliter, three-month supply is $89. The difference is $1.30 versus $0.89 per serving. And those who subscribe get an additional 15% off, driving the serving price down to $1.10 and $0.76.

So far, the results are promising. Once rolled out, Okusa said subscriptions ballooned and now make up about one-third of the company’s revenue. There are benefits beyond conversion, too — the three-month subscription helps Apothekary save on monthly shipping costs. Okusa said it will be rolling out a larger size for its rose alternative later this year.

The ins and outs of going bulk

For some brands, bulk sizes are an exclusive offering for club stores. B.T.R. Nation this month launched a 16-bar package of its Cinnamon Cookie Dough flavor that will only be available at 35 Costco locations in the southeastern United States. At $16.99, it’s a better deal for shoppers than what’s on Amazon. Meanwhile, Pressed Juicery sells a one-liter Costco exclusive that’s only available at locations in California. At around $9, it gives shoppers a discount of about 30% to 40%.

Brett Meltzer, svp of sales at Pressed, wouldn’t share how much of the company’s sales come from the club. But he said it’s a good fit for strategy purposes as much as it is for sales. Pressed will rotate out four different flavors seasonally and be able to tell what’s more popular, whether it’s beet juice or summery citrus. And it can be an awareness driver for people looking to get healthier, he said. “What we’re seeing from the Costco membership is the great premium of a better-for-you-product at an approachable price point,” he said.

Katie Thomas, head of the Kearney Consumer Institute, said that bulk shopping appeals to certain segments of customers. Large families, for instance, may want to buy something they know they’ll use a lot of at a greater value. Other people may opt to buy a bulk package because of the convenience of having a backup, like a two-pack of butter that costs the same as buying two individuals.

But bulk isn’t a fit for all shoppers. “Bulk is both an opportunity but occasionally a challenge for consumers because there are certain people in cities that feel they can’t buy in bulk,” Thomas said. “There’s an occasional frustration there, like oh the best bang for my buck is something I can’t engage in because I don’t have room for it.” 

Thomas also said that some shoppers have noticed that brands create bulk products without a cheaper per-ounce or per-unit price. Similar to occurrences of shrinkflation, Thomas said that savvy customers would realize they’re not getting a lower price by getting the value size. In that case, shoppers seeking bulk may be more likely to stock up during a sale. Others may opt for a private label.

“Right now, you’re seeing the immediacy of the best bang for the buck,” she said. “You’re starting to see consumers really evaluate and figure out what the best brand is that works for them.”

George Sousa Jr., president at Mariani Packaged Foods, said the dried fruits company is seeing significant growth in its bulk sizes. He credits part of that to the push for more healthy snacking. In the past six years, the sale of Mariani-branded products has grown at a CAGR of 10%, with its club business driving 70% of that growth. The club business itself has grown 27% in the same time. Sousa said the product’s success comes partly from families who are buying large bags to use for healthy snacks.

Yet every brand’s strategy for getting the bulk size in front of consumers is different. Unlike Apothekary, Mariani sells wholesale in 30,000 locations. And it’s been in Costco since the 1980s. But Sousa said Mariani started to roll out more value sizes in regular supermarkets a few years before the pandemic as grocers were looking to compete with the clubs and their co-branded private labels, like Kirkland.

Sousa said Mariani responded to that trend by supplying supermarkets with dried fruits for their private label, as long as Mariani could also sell its own branded value packs. That’s remained the strategy ever since. “We have found success in the value packs, and it’s done a few things. It’s really helped us grow our business. It’s offered at a value price to the consumer in the grocery store. And it’s helped the grocery store offset the leakage they were having to the clubs,” he said.

Sousa said that thanks to inflation, shoppers might be only getting, say, four bags worth of groceries, whereas two years ago, they could have gotten six bags worth of groceries for the same amount. The key challenge for Mariani — and every CPG brand — then is to ensure that its products stay in one of those four bags.

“That’s where the value packs really work for us,” he said.