The phrase “high-quality, ethically-sourced organic consumer goods for $3” sounds pretty paradoxical, right? Until recently, shopping for everyday food and household essentials that fit certain requirements—like gluten-free, organic, non-GMO, or fair trade—could set you back a substantial amount.
A newly-launched retailer is seeking to change the way we shop. Introducing Brandless, a startup established with the goal of democratizing the world of consumer goods by providing high-quality essentials at an affordable price of $3. Created by veteran entrepreneurs Tina Sharkey and Ido Leffler, the company has already accrued $50 million in venture funding.
“The whole idea for Brandless really started a couple years ago, when I woke up in the middle of the night with a very simple, horrible feeling in the gut of my stomach: That people were just paying too much for the stuff they’re consuming every single day,” says Leffler.
This gut feeling soon snowballed into a partnership with Sharkey, who had been researching the “new consumer.” One who rejects the traditional notions of what a brand “should” be and instead values transparency and fairness. Fast forward a few years of ironing out the details and meticulously scouring the globe for the highest quality products available, and Brandless was born.
The entirely online retailer offers everything from beauty products and home goods to food such as, gluten-free pancake mix. And true to promise, it’s all available for just $3.
But exactly how is this fixed low price point possible? It all boils down to something Brandless calls “BrandTax” which, is essentially the hidden cost that comes with buying a nationally-recognizable brand. If you’re wondering how much of a difference it actually makes in the final price of your groceries, the results are surprising. Organic oats face a 90 percent tax while something as simple as daily moisturizing facial lotion is marked up an astounding 367 percent.
“The attributes we have on the packaging are just what matter—it’s not about a guy on a gondola going through a pretend Venetian canal,” says Leffler. “People shouldn’t choose between what is good for them and what they can afford, which is generally what happens with fancy labels. Our price makes sense because we’ve brought back efficiency into the world of CPG, and because of that you don’t have to compromise. We’re all being trained to accept that we pay $9 for coconut oil. You shouldn’t have to.”
With a “people first” philosophy at the core of Brandless, every product sold on the site has been rigorously vetted to cut the frills and streamline the process. You won’t find ten different toothpaste varieties in the e-store; just one peppermint tube that has all the benefits of a more expensive option, minus the added tax and unnecessarily flashy label.
But while Brandless is first and foremost a retail business, it’s more than just an online supermarket. Given both founders’ genuine passion for the founding principle of democratizing everyday essentials without compromise, Brandless has a philanthropic edge. For every transaction, Brandless will donate a meal through Feeding America.
“It was a simple choice to partner with what is in my opinion the greatest organization in the country to help solve this issue,” says Leffler of working with the hunger-relief nonprofit to bring food to those in need. In addition to the long-term collaboration with Feeding America, Leffler hinted at other philanthropic endeavors in Brandless’ future.
“The products at Brandless are just one small aspect of what will effectively become a bigger community,” says Leffler. “I personally want to hear about the people who were able to save money and take their family on an adventure to the Grand Canyon or save up for school; whatever it may be, being able to save $50 or $100 a week and still get all the benefits from products that generally cost significantly more will be easy.”
This holistic approach to consumer goods retail, where a community is fostered and people can do tangible good when shopping for their everyday essentials, is one Brandless is committed to. In addition to the “B. More” membership program currently available, which gives members access to exclusive offers and more meals donated to Feed America per transaction, expect more collections—possibly at a different price point from the brand’s Essentials collection but with the same commitment to quality and transparency—in the company’s future.
Whether or not Brandless’ business tactic is indicative of a larger change within the retail industry remains to be seen, but for now, Leffler and Sharkey are committed to their customers and building a comprehensive shopping experience that is uniquely Brandless.
“Our goal is to affect people every single day—how everyone else reacts, I don’t know,” says Leffler. “What I do care about is figuring out how we can overdeliver every single day in every way, shape, or form. Everything that we build is based around having incredible people, an awesome cause, and a kickass product. We just put our blinders on and we go.”
Shop everyday essentials, including home goods, grocery, and health items, online at Brandless.com now.
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