By Annalise Mantz
Thrive Market is a healthy eater’s dream: the site offers gluten-free, Paleo, non-GMO, organic, raw, vegan, and just plain well-made grocery items, from pancake mix to Maldon sea salt, at lower price points than you would find at your local Whole Foods — 25 to 50 percent lower to be exact. A yearly membership opens the doors to all the healthy foods you already eat anyways, and plenty of new finds you may not have yet tried, all sent right to your doorstep. The best part? Thrive is also #sweating it forward. For each paid membership on the site, Thrive has committed to donating a free Thrive membership to a low-income family — forever. Annalise Martz, associate editor at Thrive, answers our burning questions.
How did Thrive get started? What was the original idea?
The idea behind Thrive Market started with our CEO, Gunnar Lovelace. The child of a single mom, he grew up in Ojai, Calif. and saw how hard his mom worked to put nutritious, wholesome food on the table. His mom eventually remarried, to a man who ran a health food buying club from an organic farm. Gunnar saw how much easier it was to access healthy food as part of the buying club, and thinks of Thrive Market as the 21st century version of that idea.
Who are the founders, and why did they want to start this company?
We’re lucky to have a really diverse, passionate team of co-founders. Our four co-founders are CEO and serial social entrepreneur Gunnar Lovelace, President and entrepreneur Nick Green, CTO and technologist Sasha Siddhartha, and Vice President of Content and lifestyle publishing veteran Kate Mulling. They each come from different backgrounds and perspectives, but all have a passion for healthy living that led them to start this business.
They describe their decision to start Thrive Market as two shared realizations: First, that living healthy in America is too hard for too many people, and second, that it shouldn’t be that way.
You have so many brands on board - How did you get all the healthy brands excited about Thrive?
Many of the brands we work with share our passion for healthy foods and really empathize with our desire to make their products more accessible to more people. We work with our brand partners to negotiate the best pricing and pass that along to our members. We’re so grateful to all the brands we work with for their willingness to help us make our vision possible.
How do you choose what you sell on Thrive?
Our VP of Merchandising Jeremiah McElwee has a ton of experience with natural foods and products, and he spearheads the process of finding new brands and making sure they’re truly something that fits in our catalog. We want to be a trusted, curated source that makes healthy living easy and accessible. In other words, we’re not trying to give you 25 almond butters to choose from, but offer a few of the best on the market.
We also have over 90 qualities, such as Paleo, gluten-free, vegan, and fair trade, that you can use to filter our catalog of products. When our buyers bring on new products, we make sure to note which categories they fall under so that we have something for everyone — no matter your dietary restrictions.
Why would someone want to be a member?
For one thing, your Thrive Market membership will help you save money. On average, our prices are 25 to 50 percent lower than the prices you’ll see in other retailers. A typical family of four will make back their $59.95 annual membership fee in the savings from one or two Thrive Market orders.
On a larger scale, every paid membership sponsors a free membership for a low-income family. If you think about it, your membership is really helping two people make healthier choices: you, and the family you’re sponsoring.
How did you grow and get the word out?
Ultimately, what we are doing is eliminating the barrier to entry for healthy living, and that’s something a lot of people can get behind. Thrive Market is a no-brainer if you care about your health, your body, the environment, or the overall health of our culture.
In addition to having a mission that deeply resonates with people, we’re very grateful to be working with a network of influential marketing partners, content contributors, and investors. Mark Sisson, Dr. Mark Hyman, Deepak Chopra, Tara Stiles, Ian Somerhalder, and Molly Sims are just a few of the people we’re working with. We have an amazing community of ambassadors who are helping spread the word about Thrive. We’ve reached a lot of people very quickly through our ambassadors, their networks, and just sharing the mission of what Thrive is all about. If you have any interest in helping spread the word about Thrive, read here for more information.
When did the social good element become a part of the model? How does that work?
Our social giving program has been a part of Thrive Market from the first days of this business. For every paid member who registers for Thrive Market, we donate one free membership to a low-income family. We knew that if we wanted to truly make natural products as affordable as conventional products, we needed to give people of all income levels the opportunity to shop on Thrive Market.
Any great success stories from either customers, or the families you have donated to?
For me personally, one of the most touching things has been hearing from our customers who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford or access the products we sell. I manage our social media accounts, and I hear almost daily from customers who live in rural areas or food deserts where healthy options simply don’t exist in grocery stores. It’s truly amazing that we are helping people buy the products they know they want, at prices they can actually afford.
How do you decide which families receive donations?
We give out free memberships through our giving partners, including organizations like The Boys And Girls Club and L.A. Fund. Since we launched, we’ve also had an incredible amount of families who want to make healthier choices reach out to us to ask for free memberships, so we’ve been able to give out memberships directly as well.
What's in the future for Thrive?
We recently opened a new, much larger fulfillment center, which will help us ship out our customers’ orders faster than ever. We also recently launched our blog, Thrive Notebook, which includes everything from healthy and delicious recipes, to guides on shopping for non-GMO produce. As we grow, we hope our blog will be both a resource for people who are just starting to learn about nutrition and health, and a destination for readers who are looking for a fun recipe or new DIY tip.
Any final advice/ words?
Choosing to live a healthy life isn’t as hard as you think it is. If you fill your cupboards with healthy pantry staples, and your fridge with fresh fruits, vegetables, and protein, you’re already halfway there.
Annalise Mantz is the Associate Editor and resident grammar expert at Thrive Market, where she runs the Thrive Notebook blog. When she’s not writing, you can find her cooking up a storm, exploring L.A.’s best hiking trails, or watching House of Cards.