E-retailer Brandless reimagines how consumers everywhere and of every budget can access organic

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

More often than not, better-for-you products are more expensive than their traditional counterparts – limiting their accessibility to those who can afford higher prices. But online grocer Brandless believes everyone deserves better and to make that possible it is reimagining how healthier products are marketed and delivered to consumers nationwide.

“We have been trained as consumers that better should cost more,”​ and that means consumers who don’t have the budget for premium pricing often don’t even consider natural and organic products, Ido Leffler, co-founder and chairman of Brandless told FoodNavigator-USA at the Partnership for a Healthier America Summit last week in Washington, DC.

“That is no longer the case,”​ he confidently added, explaining that Brandless is making non-GMO, organic, vegan and nutrient-dense products available nationwide at a more affordable price through its ecommerce site.

One way that Brandless makes sure everyone feels “invited to this better-for-you party”​ is by capping the cost for each item, or in some cases bundles of two or three items, at $3 – a move it can make by cutting out the middlemen and eliminating what it calls a “brand tax.”

The brand tax “is the extra cost you pay for buying a national brand”​ that is tacked on and added up by brokers, distributors and other layers in the supply chain that “in 2018 just doesn’t need to exist,”​ Leffler said. He explained as an ecommerce site, Brandless can go direct to manufacturers and direct to consumers.

The result is “we have been able to provide products that people never expected to be able to buy for their homes,”​ such as coconut oil, quinoa and olive oil, because they typically are more expensive, he said.

Winning middle America

Since Brandless launched last July, the service has taken off – especially among consumers in middle America or rural areas where there are fewer retailers and those that do exist have more limited assortments.

For example, one consumer in “the middle of nowhere Colorado”​ who bought 27 items for $63 plus the $5 FedEx charge, said the total was less than the cost of gas needed to drive 100 miles round trip to the nearest grocery store, Leffler said.

Similarly, a consumer in an urban setting struggling to pay rent reported being able to afford on Brandless food that was previously out of reach at nearby stores.

In an industry with notoriously tight margins, some of Brandless’ success is a numbers game. But Leffler also attributes the retailers’ success to hiring top talent – a strategy that recommends others in the industry employ if they want to enact the same kind of change as Brandless.

“Invest in your people. Get the right people around the table, whether it is people who work for you, or advisors or investors, and​ collaborate," he said. .He also encouraged newcomers to "think big, because this is a big market and there is room for everyone,”​ he said.

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