Forget price comparing — what if you could add things to your grocery cart with reckless abandon, confident in the knowledge that everything from toothpaste to brownie mix costs the same exact price? Well, now you can.
This unique online supermarket is looking to make waves in the $675 billion grocery industry. While the shift to online shopping has been significant for almost every other industry, grocery stores so far have failed to capture their target audience in any meaningful way. People just aren’t ready to buy their bananas without touching them first, and some estimates show that only 1-3% of consumers are shopping online for their supermarket needs. Enter Brandless, a virtual grocery store on a mission to get you shopping online.
There’s a new online grocery store in town
Serial entrepreneur Tina Sharkey launched Brandless with business partner Ido Leffler, thanks in part to $50 million from investors before the website even launched. The duo envisioned a simple, straightforward grocery shopping experience that made it easy to save money and get exactly what you need.
Everything costs the same price
Their main draw is pricing — that’s the “everything for $3” aspect of the business. Not a single item on the site costs more or less than that magic $3. It’s like shopping at the dollar store … without all of those weird, potentially toxic products.
But how is it so cheap?
Brandless manages to keep costs low by skipping all national brands in favor of their own private label merchandise. Co-founder Sharkey even trademarked the word “BrandTax” to help describe how much consumers usually pay in hidden costs like advertising. They estimate that the average person pays at least 40% more for products of comparable quality, and up to 370% more for high markup items like face cream. Yikes. Plus, not having brick and mortar locations saves the company money, and they pass that savings along to you.
There has to be a catch … right?
No catch — it’s really all $3. Shipping is a flat $9 per order, but you can skip that by becoming a B.More member, which includes free shipping on orders over $48, a sneak peek at new items, and invitations to local events and happenings. The B.More membership fee is $36/year.
It all comes in hipster-approved packaging
Everything is packaged in the same uniform, vaguely hipster packaging that’s so plain and basic it’s totally hip. Brandless purchases directly from the manufacturers, which avoids the middleman markup cost.
They have (just about) everything you need — except apples
So what will you find at Brandless? Like most other online grocers, they don’t have perishables like fresh fruits and vegetables, but they do stock plenty of dry goods and other everyday essentials. Need maple syrup, pancake mix, ketchup, coffee, coconut oil, mouthwash, lip balm, and multi-surface cleaner? Head to Brandless. It’s all there, and it’s all $3.
Their official category offerings include departments for Food, Household Supplies, Beauty, Personal Care, and Home & Office.
But what’s the selection like?
Even though their selection is limited — meaning you don’t have your choice of 40 different tomato sauces, just the one — they work hard to ensure they picked the tastiest tomato sauce in existence. The aim of the buyers is to find the best of the best so you don’t need to waste your precious time hunting it down.
You can shop by values
The folks at Brandless did their research, and they realized their target market wanted products that are good for them and for the environment. That’s why you’ll find plenty of organic items with few additives and preservatives. “People are really resonating with the idea that this is affordable, accessible, and the kind of values they want at the prices they can actually afford,” said co-founder Sharkey.
Narrow your shopping list by values, such as certified organic, gluten free, non-GMO, vegan, sugar-free, and certified Kosher.
Dip your toes in the water with bundles
For anyone on the fence about product selection, Brandless offers a few starter kits to make life easier. The basic Brandless Bundle includes 17 random staff-approved picks of products you’re sure to love. Meanwhile, Beauty Basics offers the 8 must-have beauty products you’ll want to buy over and over again.
Give back just by shopping at Brandless
Like any good modern brand (or non-brand, in this case), Brandless cares about giving back, too. They’re partnered with Feeding America®, the nation’s leading domestic hunger relief organization. Every time you shop, a meal gets donated to someone in need.
It’s time to let go of brand loyalty
At the end of the day, it’s the quality that matters — not the cute cartoon mascot or the amount of money the company spends on product marketing. Brandless is trying to demonstrate that no matter what the packaging looks like, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
Not everyone loves it, though
A recent Business Insider article compared a few Brandless products against comparable items from Trader Joe’s. While they didn’t find any real red flags at Brandless, the overall winner in terms of taste was Trader Joe’s.
However, that’s all personal preference. Plus, it doesn’t account for all the time you’ll spend driving, parking, cart filling, and checking out at TJ’s.
They have some talented people on staff
The product development team is led by Rachel Vega, a former Target employee who was in charge of the grocery business. Co-founder Tina Sharkey is also co-founder of iVillage, an online media company for women and has served as president of Baby Center. Her co-founder Leffler also helped to start a skincare company, Yes To, and a school supply company called Yoobi.
Investors are all in
If you happen to care what investors think, then you should keep an eye on Brandless. The $50 million they raised prior to launch came from venture companies including Sherpa Capital, Cowboy Ventures, and Slow Ventures. Those are the visionaries also responsible for runaway hits including Jet.com and Dollar Shave Club.
The best is yet to come
The site launched in July 2017 with 117 products. In their first week, they shipped to an impressive 48 states and have already had the internet all abuzz. Assuming their success continues, you can reasonably expect the selection to grow and the quality to improve even more.
Will Brandless become the next big thing in groceries? Only time will tell.