For the past several years, organic and non-GMO foods and food products have become precious commodities in a food system where the opposite is the norm.
As Americans continue to dump artificial and lab-engineered foods for more natural ones, big brands have cashed in, ranging from Whole Foods to Trader Joe’s and even the Non-GMO Verified Project, which has become a mainstay on packages due to the lack of GMO labeling here in the U.S.
But now, a new start-up based in San Francisco is hoping to compete, and perhaps even beat, these and other health-conscious food brands head-on by cutting out the middle man (and the “brand” itself) to allow for savings to be passed on to the consumer.
New “Brandless” Store Goes Mainstream
Recently mainstream media outlets including Forbes.com and CNN Money have covered the story of Brandless.com, the new retailer in question, which launched this past July.
The retailer’s goal is to “democratice goodness,” according to its co-founder Tina Sharkey in a post on Medium.com, by offering lower-priced organic and natural goods to visitors.
The store is reportedly non-GMO, enviromentally friendly and free of artificial preservatives.
More than half of the store’s catalog is comprised of organic ingredients according to this blog post from Grub Street, and it tackles at least one crucial health issue related issue in the world of non-organic products: tampons and other feminine hygiene products.
While Monsanto’s controversial weedkiller chemical glyphosate has bee found in as many as 85% of tampon brands tested, Brandless.com offers certified organic feminine hygiene products free of chlorine, rayon, fragrance or dyes.
It’s just one example of how the company hopes to offer simplified solutions to problems created by big brands that simply don’t care about their customers’ health.
How the Company Operates
By cutting out the costs associated with the branding of popular products, which the company deems a “BrandTax™,” the website says it is able to cut prices by as much as 40%.
“We’ve been trained to believe these costs increase quality, but they rarely do,” their website states, adding that shoppers will be shown how much they save compared with buying from branded products on their personal account page (a Wall Street Journal comparison found a surprising discrepenacy however; more on that later in the article).
Other features for the health and environmentally-conscious include:
-Paper products made with either bamboo or sugarcane fiber that are FSC certified for sustainable forestry practices, (see “tree free napkins” on the website as an example).
-An entirely non-GMO line of food products
-A commitment to not using animal testing
-Beauty products that are made without over 400 harmful ingredients like parabens, polypropylene and phthlates; noteworthy considering the U.S. bans far fewer harmful ingredients than Europe
-A pledge to partner with Feeding America to donate a meal each time you shop on the website (more on this later and why it may not actually be the best idea)
-The ability to shop by “values” such as organic, vegan and more
Is the New Brandless.com Site Worth It?
One of the most frustrating parts of the shopping experience many health-conscious and natural food shoppers is the amount of intensive, time-consuming label reading it takes to find the right products on each shopping trip.
With streamlined menus, the ability to sort via your shopping needs in terms of categories like organic and vegan, and the commitment to relatively low prices (did we mention everything on the site is just $3.00?) Brandless.com is a promising new development in the healthy living space.
But like most new businesses it’s still got a few bugs to work out: a Wall Street Journal report notes that the 115 products that were initially available were generally a little more expensive than their big-brand conterparts; including Jif peanut butter compared with the Brandless version and Kraft’s mac-and-cheese, which checked in at 42 cents cheaper as of the online store’s launch.
It is worth noting that the benefits of getting an organic and non-GMO product in the case of the Brandless version is something that is hard to put a price on, however: it’s really not a fair comparison taking the benefits of organic into account.
One Major Concern with Brandless.com
While the website seems too good to be true in some areas, it’s worth noting that the company’s preferred charity partner, Feeding America, counts Monsanto of all companies as one of its “Leadership Partners.”
Monsanto is of course the St. Louis, MO-area American agrochemical and agribusiness company responsible for DDT, Agent Orange, the widespread poisoning of towns with PCBs and much more. It is also one of the leading producers of genetically engineered seeds and toxic chemicals like dicamaba and Roundup (with its main ingredient glyphosate) in the world.
The company claims that its lab-engineered GMO crops and associated suite of chemicals are needed to “feed the world,” even though multiple reports including two recent ones from the United Nations (see here and here) say that their assertion is false.
All of this of course begs the question: why is a pro-organic company like Brandless.com partenering with a charity being led by a company considered to be one of the most anti-health and anti-organic in the entire world?
That’s something you’ll have to figure out before you decide whether or not to support Brandless.com with your dollars; at any rate its concept is still a promising develop in the world of simpler and cheaper organic and non-GMO shopping.
Learn more about the company in the video below: