If you live in a major metropolitan area, you might not realize that food deserts are a harsh reality in much of the country. Food deserts are regions that have limited access to healthy food options, and good-for-you fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats are hard to get your hands on in these areas. The consequence of that is reliance on unhealthy food choices, such as processed snacks, fast food, and sugary drinks. But one online grocer is trying to change the reality of food deserts by bringing healthy food to these areas, with the help of technology.
Thrive Market is a site that sells a carefully curated collection of relatively healthy foods, including chicken, peanut butter, and pasta. Most of the products are deliberately priced below market value, often selling for 10 to 15 percent cheaper than how they are priced on Amazon. The catch? Consumers must be prepared to pay an annual amount of $60 to have access to these bargain produce selections. “We’re able to have these low prices because we buy directly from the brands and the farmers, we cut out all the middlemen in the supply chain, [and] we have our own distribution centers,” founder Gunnar Lovelace told Fast Company.
In other words, Thrive Market makes its profit from membership fees, not from product sales. You could see the company as “kind of like a socially conscious version of Costco online,” said Lovelace.
By purchasing a membership, consumers not only unlock bargain grocery deals, but they also help a family in need. For every membership fee that gets paid, Thrive Market gives a membership away to a family in need, working with Feeding America and United Way to target low-income families living in food deserts and prioritizing teachers, veterans, and students.
Many of the small brands available on Thrive Market won’t be found on other online marketplaces such as Amazon. Thrive Market also tries to focus on carrying fewer brands but selecting brands that are organic or artisanal.
If Thrive Market’s business model proves to be successful, it could play a significant role in solving the problem of food deserts in America, by making healthy food cheaper and more widely available.