The average cost of a loaf of cashew sourdough bread (made from raw cashews and eggs) is $10. Upwards of $18 if the cashews are organic. Yielding 18 slices of bread, one loaf makes two sets of lunches for my family of four. Needless to say, sourdough isn’t a staple in our diet.
Despite living during a time where healthy eating is no longer an option – over $300 billion is spent treating diabetes annually in the U.S. – the cost of healthy food poses an insurmountable barrier for most.
That’s where Thrive Market comes in. Founded in November 2014 by serial entrepreneurs Gunnar Lovelace and Nick Green, the e-commerce marketplace is reimagining the way we purchase and engage with healthy foods and products.
Ranging from almond flour to kale chips, the startup boasts thousands of products that are sold at 25% – 50% less than the price of conventional foods. If you’ve ever seen a 32-ounce bag of nut flour listed at $16 you understand the audacity of the team’s endeavor.
Now a team of 400 – they were 15 only 16 months ago – Thrive Market’s North Star is that healthy eating should be an accessible, democratized right.
While the marketplace has a $60 membership fee, each membership purchased provides one to a family in need. The company’s also partnered with ID Me to enable students, teachers, veterans, and first responders to obtain free access to the platform.
Raised by a single mom, Lovelace is familiar with the struggle families face providing healthy food for their children.
“There is a mass secular trend where people want to live a healthy lifestyle but they can’t afford it,” he says. “We stand at an amazing intersection where we absolutely have to get non-toxic, healthy alternatives to people.”
The food crisis and lifestyle diseases are ravaging the American public.
Education is equally important to Thrive Market’s mission. The team’s blog – Thrive Notebook – details healthy recipes, strategies to detox your body, and health stories from their followers and influencers. The goal is to help members navigate the myriad of choices we face as consumers by providing a clear representation of the benefits of making healthy lifestyle shifts, such as using chemical-free cleaning products.
While Lovelace and Green’s mission is incredibly timely, the founders were dismissed by investors when raising their seed round in 2014.
Being rejected by the VCs in our seed round is one of the best things that’s ever happened to us.
Instead, they decided to partner with bloggers and strategic influencers, such as actress Demi Moore and musician John Legend, to not only capitalize the business but market it as well.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by their enthusiasm, excitement, and support,” Lovelace says. “Their belief in the mission has given us really strong tailwinds.”
Less than a year later, Thrive Market’s raised $58 million from the likes of Greycroft Partners and Cross Culture Ventures.
With 150,000 paying membership customers, the team is on track to hit an annual run rate of $100 million; Making them the fastest growing health and wellness e-commerce company in American history.
As a result, Thrive Market ranks as a top three and top five sales channel for the brands they distribute on the platform.
“We live in a world where the production and distribution of food are dominated by a very small group of large corporations,” Lovelace says. “We’re creating a superstructure that aligns our shared values around supporting and scaling conscious brands that are affecting supply chains in a very positive way.”
Our mission is to help people vote with their dollars.
In addition to gaining access to a national market, brands like Jovial and Paleo Wraps have an opportunity to reach a health conscious audience through Thrive Market’s blog and newsletter which has over three million subscribers.
According to Lovelace, the elimination of the “pay to play retail games is a game-changer.”
Thrive Market is also creating their own line of food products; Specifically producing heavy items like apple cider vinegar that pose cost and shipping challenges. They currently sell coconut oil and marinara sauce and will be launching 50 products in the coming year. You can expect additions such as nuts and sprouted flours as early as this month.
Despite Green and Lovelace’s journey demonstrating traits of the classic entrepreneurial tale, Lovelace is the first to admit that Thrive Market faces immense operational and strategic challenges to continuing scaling at this pace. To balance the astronomical growth, the founders made early leadership decisions to add two co-founders – Kate Mulling and Sasha Siddhartha – and bring on senior executives to help them lead the team.
“Our job is to make sure that every increment of growth is executed in a very measured and thoughtful way to continue to deliver an incredibly high-quality experience,” he says. “This is a dynamic learning curve for all of us. Our cultural dynamic is about getting it right together versus being right as an individual.”