Most people have mastered the art of customizing their online profiles by now — whether its their Twitter background, the parts of Facebook you can make your own, or the host of other social accounts added to the average web addict’s list every month. But did you ever think you’d be able to customize your own pet food or high heeled shoes — or beef jerky for that matter?

A few months ago, we wrote about customizable gifts you can create and have delivered with a few clicks. From photo books to t-shirts to M&Ms, the web is blossoming with products that can add a whole new meaning to “personal branding.” Here’s a second wave of products you can customize on the web to suit just about any lifestyle.

1. Mix Your Own Chocolate Bar

Gone are the days of bowing to the confectionery will of those prefabricated chocolate bars on the drug store impulse rack. With German-based chocolatier Chocri, all of your wildest chocolate dreams can now come true (though it looks like chocolate swimming pools are at least a few years off).

Choose the type of chocolate and richness; mix in nuts, fruit, confections, spices, and even grains (for those flax seed enthusiasts); and finish up with a personalized message. For under $20, a delicious custom chocolate bar just might get mom to forgive you for forgetting her birthday last year.

Carmen Magar, CEO of Chocri America, likes to talk about the role that social technology plays in this new wave of product customization startups. “In the first wave of mass customization,” she says, “everyone thought it would be the big companies who could make it happen. But their processes are just not flexible enough, and while there are some examples of success (predominantly NikeiD), others have folded (like General Mills). This time around it’s start-ups that build customization businesses from the ground up –- and we are good at it!”

2. Custom Dress Shirts

Sure, you could always go down to the local tailor and have your dress shirts custom fitted, but companies like Blank-Label now allow you to build your own dress shirt online. Select your threads, the fit, style (everything from pockets to collar type), and special extras like monograms and colored linings or buttons. Then, simply kick back and watch some YouTube videos while these guys sew your shirt from scratch.

Danny Wong, 19-year-old co-founder of Blank-Label is pumped about co-designing products with his customers. “Businesses have begun realizing more and more that they have to be more user-oriented, and what better way than collaborating with customers to co-create something?”

3. Custom Jewelry

Most jewelers will let you adjust the size of the stones in your ring or pendant, but the web is making the custom jewelry process even easier while offering more options. Sites like Gemvara let you customize every aspect of your jewelry, so you can give that special someone something truly unique.

And jewelry is definitely a category where unique is chic. “Did you know that JFK proposed to Jackie with an emerald engagement ring? I guess you learn something new (about jewelry) every day,” writes Gemvara on Twitter.

4. Customized Jerky

For those uninterested in jewlery, perhaps this will tickle your fancy: Custom dehydrated meat. That’s right, the guys at SlantShack cook up batches of what they call “never before seen jerky flavors” for your consumption and pleasure, and per your instructions.

They’re not taking orders right now while they renovate the website, but be sure to check back soon. In the meantime, read their About Us page for a hilarious journey into the minds of the kind of people who like to experiment with smoked meat. What we want to know: Can we order a piece in the shape of Mark Zuckerberg’s head?

5. Custom Handbags

Purse and handbag maker Laudi Vidni wants to ensure you never again show up to that benefit on the Upper East Side with the same orange Gucci clutch as another guest. Select the silhouette of the bag you want to create, then add the interior, exterior, and hardware. Seriously, if you’re going to drop $500 on a handbag, why not make it your own?

6. Customized Women’s Shoes

But why stop at handbags? At Shoes of Prey, you can design your own unique heels in minutes. The best part about it is the paint-by-number interface that lets you fill in each section of your new kicks like one of those fuzzy coloring posters from kindergarten. Select the fabric, heel size, clasps and colors, then check out. The only thing we see missing is an option to slap on some impact-triggered LA Lights-style LEDs!

7. Create-Your-Own Pet Food

Why should we humans have all the fun with this customization stuff? Give Fido control of the cursor and let him create his own brand of pet food at Red Moon. Choose the base formula, the energy level of your pet, bag and kibble size, and supplements (like the kind you throw in at Jamba Juice!) to invent a batch of puppy or cat chow that’s perfect for your little friend’s needs — or wants, depending on who’s in charge.


Today, scrappy startups and even major retailers are utilizing the web to create totally unique products in all sorts of categories — and you don’t even have to buy in bulk like the old days. If these trends continue, it won’t be long before custom is much hipper than “brand name.”

Magar says, “Startups in the co-creation space are not only ‘open’ to consumer input or ‘tolerating’ it so they can sell via social media — we need it and cherish it to create a great product! And hopefully we can be an inspiration to other companies to take interaction with their customers another step further.”

Have you found any other great product customization websites? Share some links in the comments.

More gift guide resources from Mashable:

10 Unique Gifts You Can Make with Help from the Web

5 Must-Have Geek Collectibles

Twitter Gift Guide: 15 Ways to Shop for the Twitter Obsessed

Mac Gift Guide: 10 Buying Ideas for Apple Fans

10 Great Digital Gifts for Social Media Lovers

10 Romantic Gif
ts for Your Beloved Geek

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, nicolas_

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Tags: custom, customize, design, fashion, Food, gift guide, products, shopping, social media, startups, tech