[00:00] Human Charger/Organifi
[04:55] About Gunnar Lovelace
[09:02] Gunnar’s Diet
[14:54] Gunnar’s Life Story
[18:12] How Thrive Market Works
[29:53] Thrive Market Foods
[34:54] Blue Apron/Quarterly
[37:30] Thrive Market Vs. Other Online Groceries
[45:47] On Love Heals
[49:21] Other Foods That You Should Get On Thrive Market
[54:36] End of the Podcast
Ben: Hey, what’s up? It’s Ben Greenfield coming to you from Panama where I just got off the water during an epic surf lesson. That’s right, I’m learning how to surf. I’m also horseback riding, stand-up paddling, and fire dancing and engaging in all manner of Tom Foolery down here at RUNGA in Panama. The event is actually almost over, but I’m recording this for you straight from location which is why you might hear birds screaming and fountains bubbling in the background because I’m out in the middle of the jungle.
My podcast today is a fun one, it’s with my buddy Gunnar who owns this online version of Whole Foods. Now don’t worry if you’ve heard about the whole Whole Foods meets Cost Co. membership grocery store, blah, blah, blah. This is interesting. We get into a few very interesting things along with some superfoods that are going to blow your mind, that you have to order right after you listen to this episode. Hint, the coconut flower wraps are amaze-bombs, but before we jump into today’s show, I want to tell you about something I’ve been using down here in Panama to align my circadian rhythm with the local sunshine because I like to get up, and before I leave my hotel room, I’ll do some stretches. I’ll make myself some coffee, I’ll tool around for a little while before I actually step out in the sunshine, and sunlight is one of the best ways to align your circadian rhythm. However because my lazy butt doesn’t go outside for a good hour, hour-and-a-half until after I get up, I often simply put the sun into my ears using technology.
I’ve got this thing called the Human Charger. You put it in your ears, almost like an MP3 player and the little buds stimulate photosensitive proteins on the surface of your brain using calibrated white light. They’ve researched this thing, there’s not any other light therapy devices that match it in regard to its effectiveness and its efficacy. You like that alliteration? Bumps up seratonin, dopamine nor adrenalin. You got to have one, if you don’t, you’re missing out on the sunlight in your ear. So you get twenty percent off.
Go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/humancharger. That’s bengreenfieldfitness.com/humancharger, and use code “Ben 20”. That’s “Ben 20” to get twenty percent off, and this podcast is also brought to you by some of the best tasting, green superfood on the face of the planet made by my friends over at Organifi. A lot of green superfood tastes like spinach or wheatgrass or kale or somebody chopped up a tasteless palm tree and blended it with bamboo fiber and force fed it to you? That stuff tastes the opposite, it’s amazing. Tastes like candy almost. No not like candy, I know a lot of people don’t like candy. Tastes like, you know one of those really good green juices that you get from a really nice juice bar? It tastes like that, except it’s in a powder form, and you can travel with it anywhere. And you just stir it into water, there’s next to no sugar, next to no fructose and it tastes amazing. It’s even got ashwagandha in it which can do things like lower cortisol and balance your hormones.
It’s called Organifi Green Juice, and you get twenty percent off on it. Here’s how. Go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/organifi. That’s bengreenfieldfitness.com/organifi, with an I, and use discount code “Ben” to get twenty percent off of your order. And now let’s jump into my podcast with my friend, Gunnar, let’s do this.
In this episode of The Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:
“And we think that there’s a really passionate consumer out there who in the face of super-intense political dysfunction and recognizing the prelude of what we had in Harvey and Maria and these storms like climate change. It’s happening.” “You know we spend three hundred dollars a year on diabetes-related illnesses, and that’s just one of several major lifestyle diseases. So the way that we are producing, distributing, marketing, consuming food is literally poisoning us.”
Ben: Hey folks, its Ben Greenfield and I like to grocery shop. I like food, I like good quality organic food, and I do hunt a lot of my own meat, and we have a big vegetable garden up here where we grow a lot of our own veggies and we forge pants and we’ve got some fruit trees now which I’m excited about, and I think all those things should be at the core of a healthy diet. Even if you don’t have all of those things, there are, of course, the existence of Farmer’s Markets and CSAs and local grocers, but let’s face it. I also like my packaged goodies. I like my nori wraps and I like my coconut milk and I like my gluten-free baking powders and seeds and nuts, and there are a host of options out there for giving this stuff. Amazon, Vitacost, Walmart, Safeway, you name it. The list goes on and on, but when it comes to buying online organic food, you’d be surprised at what you’re about to discover on today’s podcast with probably the single gentleman that knows more about getting organic food online especially than anybody on the face of the planet.
His name is Gunnar Lovelace. Not kidding, that’s his actual name, Gunnar Lovelace. Probably one of the more unique names that I’ve had on this show, and Gunnar, he’s a serial entrepreneur, starts companies. he’s got one called Love Heals, which I’d love to actually hear a little bit more about, which is a jewelry business that basically is being used to fund the planting of literally 1.5 million trees, and it sponsors over fifty thousand malnourished kids around the globe, and he also has a passion for making organic and non-GMO groceries available to people who may not want to pay the price of what you got to pay on Whole Foods. So basically he specializes in making Whole Foods-esque experiences available to people who aren’t rich, who don’t want to blow their whole pay check on kombucha.
So anyways, I’ve had a chance hanging out with Gunnar. He’s a fascinating dude, cool story too. So Gunnar, welcome to the show, man.
Gunnar: Hey, it’s great to be here. Big fan of your work and your community, so it’s an honor to be here.
Ben: Well, thanks. Thanks, appreciate that. So I’ve hung out with you dude, and you’re kind of a hippie. At least that’s the impression that I give you, and I’m curious. You being as healthy as it seems that you are, did you grow up eating kale and sprouts and kombucha, or was this a development that occurred later in life? Where did you develop you passion for organic foods and living a healthy life?
Gunnar: Yeah, so I originally grew up with a single mom and saw how hard she worked to make healthy choices and just always seemed crazy to me that food with lots of chemicals and processing costs less than food with no chemicals and processing, and when my mother remarried, my stepfather was running a food coop out of a little hippie commune in an organic farm that he runs to this day.
Ben: I knew it, I knew you grew up a hippie.
Gunnar: So I have been in the alternative culture of the organic industry and agriculture for over thirty-five years. Obviously I love the roots, and also one of the things that so exciting about Thrive Market is that we’re rally making it a mainstream thing. Fifty percent of our member basis in the Midwest and the South, and so that’s really exciting that a couple of decades of development worked, that came out in some of these more alternative communities is now going mainstream.
Ben: Interesting, so for you growing up, and by the way I was the complete opposite. I grew up on iceberg lettuce, take-and-bake pizza, twenty-nine-cent bags of hamburgers from McDonald’s, so we had a little bit of a different existence, but I’m curious now growing up with all that and yet living. ‘Cause you’re living, are you in L.A. now?
Ben: Yeah, so let me know, what’s your diet look like now? You’re pretty much twenty-four-seven at Air One?
Gunnar: Yeah, you kind of hit it on the head. Air One is definitely one of my spots. You know, like all of us, we’re kind of unique, and diet is so specialized. But I, historically, have stored a lot of stress in my stomach. That’s just one of my areas of weakness and vulnerability, and so the truth is I find that the simpler I eat, the better. Its few ingredients, very, very simple, and frankly, I love it and I feel better. So that’s mostly fruits and vegetables with some very select animal protein.
Ben: Got it, so do you follow a specific? Do you do a ketogenic thing, or are you more of a catavin, fiber-based plant diet. How do you describe, or are you just diagnostic?
Gunnar: I’m loosely Paleo, and obviously, I eat a lot of healthy saturated fats. I love the keto-movement. Again, it’s actually if I eat too much animal protein, my system just gets bogged down, so I think.
Ben: What do you mean your system gets bogged down?
Gunnar: I just don’t have as much energy. I get constipated. It’s harder to digest for me. Whereas if I’m eating lots of steamed veggies, for example, I’m doing better. I think that’s just the function of being in a super intense start up, and I just storm my stress in my stomach, so I don’t necessarily recommend that for everybody, but it works for me.
Ben: Yeah. Well honestly, there are genetic reasons for that. I don’t know how familiar you are with methylation, but there are people who, I believe the correct term would be undermethylators who actually need a lot more of the amino acid methionine from meat-based sources, and then there are other people who are overmethialators who basically if eat too much meat, just get overrun with methionine. There’s an aging effect, so there really is this genetic propensity for some people who’ll do better on a planet-based diet and then others to just feel like crap unless they get their steak every three days.
Gunnar: Yeah, and I’m not at all plant-based exclusively, but I definitely eat high quality animal protein throughout the week. I just don’t eat very much of it. Again I think you’re super educated on these issues. At the end of the day, I have a pretty simple approach to my own personal diet, which is eat simple food that’s primarily veggies, and then just try it, and then just eat lighter in general. Less food it is generally. For me I find the tendency is to eat too much, or when I’m stressed out or feeling insecure, emotional, whatever, then there’s that trained emotional response of going to food. So I bring a lot of awareness to that, it doesn’t mean I’ll get it right. In fact when I’m stressed out, it’s very easy for me to break the habits that I know are good for me.
Ben: Yeah, you’re such a weakling dude. Nobody else is like that. What about supplements, are you a supplement guy?
Gunnar: You know I do temperature stable probiotics. I really like them ’cause I do a fair bit of travelling, and as you know, a vast majority of the immune function is regulated out of the gut, and so I discovered this six or seven years ago. If I’m starting to feeling even a little bit of a tinge in my throat or run down, I actually just take probiotics every hour or two.
Ben: Every hour or two, really?
Gunnar: Yeah, and it just completely knocks the cold back. It’s a really cool trick that I learned eight or ten years ago.
Ben: Wow, that’s a lot of probiotics. Do you have a brand or a strain that you use?
Gunnar: Yeah I really like the Dr. Ohira’s that we carry. It’s temperature stable, so it allows. I can travel on airplanes and I always have it with me. Again I only do that a few times a year if I’m feeling run down. There used to be a period of time eight years ago or so where I was on the verge of being sick all the time just from overwork and stress, and as soon as I discovered that probiotic trick. Just knock on wood, I rarely, rarely get sick anymore. And then the other product, that supplement product that I actually will take, again it’s mostly around if I’m feeling a little run down is I really like the Host Defense mushroom products, they’re super effective, and then there’s Vitamin C powder from Health Force that I find really effective and absorbable. So I do that almost daily.
Ben: Is that like chaga? That mushroom?
Gunnar: Yeah, it’s like chaga and reishi. It’s a whole blend. You know Paul Stamets and his work?
Ben: I’m familiar with him, yeah.
Gunnar: Yeah, he has a great product called Host Defense. Now that’s the extent of my supplements.
Ben: You’ve got basically an online grocery store, more or less, where you sell a lot of this kind of stuff. I order from your store, but I’m curious. Before we talk a little bit about that, where’d you go from being a tiny hippie, as we’ve already established, to actually starting an online grocery store? How did that actually develop?
Gunnar: Well you know, I’ve always been interested in food. I think just a lot of survival issues growing up wasn’t clear where what the food and money was going to come from to pay the rent. Food is obviously such a primary thing in terms of our sense of well-being and just general survival, so that just naturally drew me the area. After high school, I went to college at U.C. Santa Cruz, really my peak of my expressed activist days. Started a couple of non-profits and shut my campus down a few times around different environmental issues, and then I just realized the same five hundred or thousand people showing up to our events and rallies. Just over the hill, the tech boom, the first dot-com boom was happening, and so I saw the scale and potential of the intersection of business, media and technology and saw that it could really give a broader platform to have a positive effect.
So I dropped out of college and started an educational software company, teaching children how to read and was really fortunate enough to be able the sell that business and then just had many failures, a.k.a. learning experiences, along the way and some great successes. Most broadly, really interested in the idea as business as a vehicle for good and, thinking about and looking for organizing principles that can bring people together at scale around the common good. One of the things that’s been so gratifying about being in the food space through Thrive Market over the last few years is really just seeing how it doesn’t matter who you are, where you live, what you believe, what the color of your skin is. People want to feel good on their bodies, they want the same thing for their children, and it’s a very scalable organizing principle that positively affects people on their lives and deals with some of the biggest issues we face with obviously huge health epidemics and the economic impacts of those health epidemics and then conventional agriculture today is the second largest contributor of greenhouse gases with factory farming of animals, being the mass majority of that.
So I think the way that we produce, distribute, marketing, consume food cuts to the core of our viability, long term on the planet. And so our mission at Thrive Market is really to make healthy living easy and affordable to everybody, and so if we can sell a healthy alternative at the same price as a conventional equivalent and ship it to people’s homes for free and eco-friendly packaging. We really have made a huge improvement in the solutions that are available.
Ben: That all sounds great, but I guess what I’m wondering is how do you actually start a grocery store? How did that actually happen?
Gunnar: You know just very organically, because I had a retail store with my jewelry business, Love Heals. I was able to get a bunch of wholesale accounts set up with the brands that I love, and I think it was five or six of my top brands at the time, and friends found out that I had wholesale accounts and couldn’t get Health Force and Seventh Generation products at forty and fifty percent off, and so they started wanting to be able to access those discounts, and then I ran a few shopping events on Facebook to test the demand of that. Shopping events to where we’re subscribed, and it made me think that there’s got to be a better way to organize this type of demand there is to access these products at lower pricing. So that really lead us into building a platform. That today is Thrive Market.
Ben: So how does that work exactly? You guys actually have a warehouse where you’re ordering from different farmers, what exactly happens? And the other thing I’d love to hear about by the way is I also notice everything’s super cheap. Like it’s free shipping and its twenty-five to fifty percent discounts, how do you even do that when people have to pay so much at Whole Foods or Amazon, for example?
Gunnar: The main thing is grocery today, the way it works is you’ve got your farmer, your manufacturer-slash-brand, you’ve got brokers and distributors in the middle and then you’ve got all your retail mark-up, the profits that the retailers taking and all the pay-to-play shelf games that the retailer charges the brands to have their products placed. And so we own our own warehouses, we buy directly from farmers and brands.
We cut out all the middle men in the supply chain which gives us the ability to offer tremendous savings and instead of Thrive Market making money on the product sales, the way a normal retailer does. We make our money on a sixty-dollar membership every year. So for sixty-dollars, five dollars a month, you can get organic groceries, highest quality. Curated, organic groceries at twenty-five to fifty percent off, shipped to your home for free, and our average member makes back their membership fee on their second purchase. As you know most American families are spending thousands of dollars a year on groceries. So saving twenty-five to fifty percent off is a big deal for people, not to mention the time factor.
So the core of it is that we buy directly, we cut out all the middle men, and instead of making money on the product themselves, we charge a membership fee of sixty dollars a year, and then for every paid membership, we sponsor a family in need with a free membership.
Ben: Okay, got it. So in terms of actually getting this stuff and stocking it, how are you deciding what kind of things that you’re going to carry and what you’re going to order? Let’s say coconut milk, for example. I drink a full fat, BPA-free, coconut milk. Let’s say that you guys decide you want to carry coconut milk, how does that work? How do you actually look around for who’s going to be able to get you the good coconut milk at the correct price and then allow you to be able to turn around and ship that to me and be able to provide me with the price that you’re currently providing on something like that?
Gunnar: Yeah, so it really depends on the category. So baby and cleaning products have different criteria we use than say grocery. We have extremely stringent criteria, and I think one of the things that’s really important broadly about what we do is it’s hyper-curated. You go to a normal retail store, you’re going to see fifty to a hundred thousand products. You shop on Amazon, you’ve got literally five hundred million products.
At Thrive Market, we have five thousand, that’s it, and instead of hundred laundry detergents, we have two, and we think that that’s really important because it allows us to support and work with our partners more deeply, but it also allows our members to know that the choices that they’re looking at are the absolute highest quality, and we’ve done a tremendous amount of research in that, both in terms of the quality but also making sure that we can deliver it at a really great price, and I think that’s really important. We’re all super busy, don’t have a lot of time. A lot of people may know about a few brands in a specific area but none in other areas, and so we really seek to build a lot of trust with our members that when they’re looking at our catalog and they’re looking at the products that we carry, they know that we’re carrying the absolute highest quality.
So you know obviously ninety-plus percent of the time that’s organic, we’re the largest retailer in the country that sells non-GMO groceries at that point. When we’re carrying skin care, personal care products or cleaning products, we cross reference against the environmental working group database for toxicity levels. A lot of people don’t know that the skin is the largest organ in the body, and when we take a shower, put our baby in the bath, the pores dilate and we absorb whatever it is we’re putting into our bodies. So every category has different types of editorial requirements, and we use the relationships we have in space, and frankly, we’re able to use our social mission around democratizing access to healthy living which really resonates with our partners, our suppliers, our investors, influencers like you where we just get a lot of great information from people. So a lot of times, it’s like people start searching for a new brand on our site and we study failed search results on our site, and if we see that there’s a spike in some particular product or brand that’s showing up with no results, we’ll start to carry it because it lets us know that people want it.
Ben: Right, all of a sudden, everybody wants blackberry kombucha, so you guys start to carry something like that. So do you ever feel like, playing devil’s advocate here, its online grocery shopping, right? You’re having to ship stuff. There’s jet fuel, so tell me how you’re fighting that battle against leaving a big carbon footprint or disrupting community’s small businesses by shipping food to people versus having them shop locally or at their local Farmer’s Market or CSA?
Gunnar: Yeah, yeah, so two really important questions there. So one just how we think about sustainability, so first of all, there are studies that show when you shop online [0:25:08] ______ or carbon impact than when you drive to the retail location. People don’t realize all the intermediary people that have touched and moved and transported and all the packaging and the lights and the utilities that go, and not to mention one strive to and fro. Retail location actually has a higher impact than shopping online.
Ben: Not me, I ride my bike to the grocery store.
Gunnar: Yeah, you’re an outlier which doesn’t surprise me ’cause you’re such an alternative character yourself, but by large, ninety-nine percent of people, obviously they’re driving. So just core architecture, you actually have a low impact when you shop online. The second thing is we’re a hundred percent plus consumer recycle packaging. We’re the first e-commerce company in the country that’s going to be going zero waste from our distribution centers to landfill. Meaning literally no waste will go from our DCs to a landfill. By the end of the year, we’re very, very close to that number today, and then we offset all of our carbon through conservation easement in Minnesota which is a domestic carbon project.
So that’s high level, and then when we think about our sourcing, we’re extremely fastidious about looking at the environmental impact of that. So we don’t carry anything that has palm oil, that isn’t certified or we know where it’s coming from because of the type of destruction palm oil is generating in the rain forest. When we set out to make nutrient-dense bone broth, we went to really high quality, grass-fed jerky provider. We’re like hey, can we use your whole animal to make this bone broth rather than it being wasted? So we’re extremely careful about that, and it’s really the high level of hundred percent, post-consumer, psycho-packaging, and when you shop online, it’s actually more efficient because you’re using existing last mile delivery service, so when we ship, we’re shipping with FedEx and UPS and local carriers. These guys are already driving around, so we’re not actually adding significant, new carbon impact on the delivery side. That said, it’s not a perfect thing. By the very nature of being humans, we’re consumers and we have impact, so we spend a lot of time optimizing our packaging. We just sent our team out to Minnesota to document this new domestic carbon offset program that we’re doing in Minnesota. Just had a meeting yesterday with the executives about when can we prepare to really announce our zero waste from our distribution centers to landfill. It’s a huge ongoing topic, and literally comes up every day, all day long.
Ben: Interesting, what about the packaging? For those of you listening in, I’ve been to Thrive Market‘s headquarters in L.A. and seen it, and you guys have a really cool facility there, and I seem to remember when I was there, somebody mentioned maybe there’s an option to make packaging out of like dirt or mushrooms or something like that? Is that true?
Gunnar: Yeah, I mean there is a cardboard replacement packaging that is made out of mushrooms and you can just literally compost it. We use a hundred percent, post-consumer, psycho-packaging today. The mushroom based packaging is too heavy, and one of the challenges that we confront in our business is the price to weight ratios is a super delicate dance. Because we sell so many grocery items at such low prices, we end up with really heavy boxes, and that costs a lot of money to ship. And so we make our shipping free to our members, and so we have to be really, really careful and thoughtful about how we make sure that the baskets that people are buying fit within the right matrix of price to weight ratios so that we can actually fulfill on the mission and be a long term, sustainable business, and good news is we’re really getting that down now. For the first time in history, you can get the super high-quality, organic groceries in brands that you already love and are buying from at the same price as conventional equivalents in the first time in history shipped to your home for free.
Ben: Even if you can’t eat the box yet?
Gunnar: Yeah, I mean you can’t eat the box yet. As soon as we get that worked out, I’ll let you know and we’ll need you to post a video of that though.
Ben: Yeah, absolutely. I will eat the whole box. I’ll toss the coconut, I’m not just going to eat the packaging. Now you guys have your own brand of foods now as well. You’re making your own stuff rather than just carrying other people’s stuff. I’m curious what it is you’re making now on your own or packaging now under Thrive Market’s brand?
Gunnar: Yeah, we’re super broad, and we’re always going to be working with the best third-party brands, that’s just the core part of our business, but there are just really important opportunities for us to further improve on supply chains, further improve on the quality while lowering the price to our members, and that’s where we go more directly to sourcing. So for example, we have one of the highest quality artisanal, organic, fair trade, cold pressed, virgin olive oils on the market, and it’s something that you’d spend forty or fifty dollars for at Whole Foods, and we’re selling at fifteen dollars. We went to third generation farmer in Greece, it’s one of the oldest, olive oil producing regions of the oldest olive tree in the world is right there, and we just vertically integrate. But that wasn’t important for us because we know that there’s a lot of controversy around olive oil and it gets cut with other types of oils and solvent.
Every single product that we develop under our own Thrive Market brand is extremely high-quality and also works to make the world a better place. So at the core of our business, we’re always thinking about how do we save people time and money, but how do we also connect them to the fact that when they’re making a purchase. They’re really tangibly making the world a better place. So example’s coffee. I didn’t realize until I started to research this. What the practical realities of labor conditions are like in conventional farming of coffee, and an average Guatemalan worker has to pick a hundred pounds of coffee just to qualify for the three-dollar-a-day salary. Honduras, during the picking season, forty percent of pickers are children. A lot of these locations has armed guards, and they harass people if you’re not working fast enough. So it’s just like near, slave-labor conditions, and so we couldn’t offer third party fair trade, organic coffee at a price that was competitive with third party brands, and so we went straight to a Peruvian farmer that’s fair trade, single origin, organic, and we were able to really build a super high-quality, premium, fair trade, organic coffee, but at a great price.
And so every single category has a different rationale, and every single time we work to develop a product, we really work to improve what it is that we’re offering while improving the price.
Ben: Yeah, and I’ve checked out some of your guy’s brands. You got diapers and baby wipes, you have ketchup, and you have coconut wraps. By the way, I haven’t actually used the coconut wraps yet, but what is a coconut wrap?
Gunnar: They’re freaking the bomb. The coconut wraps are awesome, you can put vegetables, meat, whatever you want, and it’s just a way to get that wrap.
Ben: It’s just a wrap made of coconut meat?
Gunnar: It’s just a wrap made out of coconut meat, so it’s freaking awesome, and we have these coconut flakes that are so freaking cool too. It’s three ingredients, but it literally looks like a corn flake but it’s made out of coconut meat.
Ben: You mean you would eat this like a cereal?
Gunnar: Yeah, it’s awesome.
Ben: You got to fill me in on this stuff more. Don’t you know that I love anything coco nutty?
Gunnar: I mean when you talked about downing cans of coconut cream, I think we can serve your coconut obsession.
Ben: Is that the organic coconut flakes cereal?
Gunnar: That’s it.
Ben: It’s going to cost me a lot of money on this podcast. I’m going to be adding a bunch of stuff to my cart. Well not a lot of money ’cause I know you save money.
Gunnar: What I think is the best granola on the market. Shortly it’s all sprouted, Paleo-friendly, organic granola, super low glycemic. I just love the recipes. I think the American breakfast is foods that I think.
Ben: Who comes up with these recipes? You guys have an in-hose chef?
Gunnar: You know we all contribute, like our Senior Vice President of Product Development, Jeremias. He was a former brand manager, 365 for Whole Foods. He ran whole body for Whole Foods for seven years which is a billion-and-a-half-dollar annual division. So super deep, rich domain expertise, and he’s super passionate about environmental issues. He and I worked super closely on this, and then I end up sourcing a lot of the products myself. You know, find great suppliers and partners and then we got an amazing line up of stuff that we’re doing in 2018. I can’t announce it yet, but there’s some amazing stuff coming.
Ben: Wow, this is really interesting.
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Finally I wanted to mention to you that there is this company called Quarterly. So every three months, they ship out the best, most impressive, newest, coolest gadgets, tools and superfoods that they test, and these are things that are curated by biohackers and nutritionists and fitness experts and physicians, and in this case, little old moi. That’s right, I was able to choose all the items in this Quarterly. Now it’s a surprise box, it ships out at the end of December, but you sign up for this, and you get a box for yourself. This would actually be a really good Christmas gift. You give this Quarterly to somebody. I’m not going to tell you what I put on it. I’m going to tell you to go to this website though, and you’ll get to see. It’s like receiving this big surprise box. It’s a lot of fun. So it’s called a Quarterly, and every three months a new surprise shows up at your door. So you sign up at bengreenfieldfitness.com/biohackbox. Just like it sounds, bengreenfieldfitness.com/biohackbox.
Ben: What are the couple of the other ’cause I’d never heard a coconut cereal, coconut wraps are now on my must-do list? Maybe replace the nori wraps that I usually use, or at least be an addition to the pantry. What are a couple of the other crazy good foods that you think more people should know about that fly under the radar?
Gunnar: Yeah, I mean I think all the great, healthy fats. I love sprouted nuts, I find unsprouted nuts and nuts that are cooked. I find them hard to digest where sprouted I feel is really clean and light in my body and a really great energy source that’s long term.
Ben: No, I mean you deactivate a lot of the enzyme inhibitors, right?
Gunnar: Yeah, exactly. Just makes it more bio-available. So sprouting I think that’s a really fun area, and I think there’s going to be a lot more of that. You know it’s not specifically Paleo, but we have great, sprouted quinoa. That’s just part of our broad offering, but the sprout of granola is something I’m super excited about, and chia. I think chia is awesome, I eat that pretty regularly. Great source of fat and protein.
Ben: You just eat chia or do you make the chia slurry out of it where you soak it out.
Gunnar: Yeah, I’ll do it. I’ll soak it overnight, and I’ll either blend it into a smoothie the next day or I do a chia pudding with monk fruit or stevia and some like fruit, and it’s just super low-glycemic and some vanilla on. Very simple.
Ben: Wow, I love it. And that sprouted granola, did you say that launched yet or that’s still to come.
Gunnar: No, it’s coming.
Ben: Okay, got it. Very cool, I love it. Okay, so I’ve got another couple of questions for you. One is in terms of the whole Amazon thing, right? I’m going to admit, dude, and I hear this a lot from people I tell about Thrive Market. They’re like Amazon Prime is way more convenient, ’cause you can buy a freaking alarm clock and a book at the same time you’re buying your canned coconut milk or your nuts or whatever. So sell me on why Thrive is better than me just going to Amazon for the convenience and the speed.
Gunnar: Yeah, so Amazon is definitely, I mean they’ve got the fast shipping thing down. We’re better prices than Amazon, and less than a third of our products are on Amazon. So if you’re really interested in health and wellness, you’re just not going to find it on Amazon, and we never set out to out Amazon-Amazon. Amazon is really good at what they do, they’ve got half a billion products on their site. We’re very curated, and I think for us, we’re very passionate about the supply chains and treating employees well and managing our carbon impact, and we’re much more than just any commerce utility. Yes at the core, you’re getting these amazing organic groceries and brands at incredible prices, but there’s much more than that. We have the giving program, we do advocacy work, and we helped bring food stamps online last year. We do a lot of work around environmental issues, we produce tons of content, and we have a real active community. And so when you’re part of Thrive, not only do you save time and money, but you’re really part of the community that doing good on the planet. I think the market for grocery is so big. We never set out to compete against Amazon. We know that there’s going to be other major retailers that do more organic and do more of it online. We think that’s a good thing. For us, we only have to get one percent of the grocery market and we’re a ten-billion-dollar business, and we think that there’s a really passionate consumer out there who, in the face of super intense political dysfunction and recognizing the prelude of what we had in Harvey and Maria, and these storms like climate changes happening.
We think that there’s a consumer that in the face of this intense dysfunction where politicians in Washington aren’t doing anything substantive or positive that there recognize a place that they have power is to vote with their dollars, and yes they want to get great prices in convenience, but they also want to support businesses that represent their values. And I think that for the Health & Wellness consumer that cares about sustainability in the environment while getting great pricing, there’s just no better option in Thrive Market.
Ben: Okay. Now when it comes to this whole Amazon thing, what do you think about the acquisition of Whole Foods by Amazon? How does that affect you guys, what are your thoughts on this?
Gunnar: I think it’s brilliant, both on Amazon’s part and Whole Foods’ part. Again for use though, we’re so focused on speaking really specifically to the customer. I think Whole Foods is already struggling reputationally prior to the acquisition, and you already see a lot of stories coming out, how Amazon’s phasing out small brands and stream lining the business in a way that’s going to negatively impact the values of the business. I think ultimately, it’s a good thing that Amazon bought Whole Foods ’cause that means that there’s billions of dollars moving into the organic industry and that’s a good thing for everybody, but there’s still a really important role for a challenger brand like ourselves to serve customers who want to get these products at great prices but want to vote and support a company that has really authentic commitment to doing good, taking care of its employees and obviously making sure that we have the highest quality innovative products. I mean again, seventy percent of the products we sell, you just can’t get on Amazon.
Ben: Yeah, well you definitely can’t buy this coconuts here on Amazon that I’m drooling over, on the coconut wraps. Never seen those on there. So that makes sense, and that surprised me that Amazon bought Whole Foods, but I guess it kind of just says something for the whole organic foods industry and I’d imagine it’s just going to blow up. Now what about you? Personally do you guys think you’re going to get a choir to Thrive? What are your plans regarding that? Is General Mills going to roll on and buy you guys?
Gunnar: Yeah, I mean we have a lot of conviction about what we’re doing, and we’re really excited about it. So we think that more than likely the path is standalone. We execute on the business, we’ll go public in two or three years, but we’re open to partnerships. If somebody, we really felt like they were authentically committed to continuing to improve the supply chains and they’re prepared to really invest in that. For us it’s never been about how much of the pie we own but how big the pie is. The core of our business is really focused on how do we make healthy living truly accessible to everybody, and so I think the good news for us as a business is we’ve had big strategic retailers and partners interested in buying us from the very beginning of the business and we’ve said no, but we’re polite and we listen and there’s other types of partnerships that can be done. I think that the Whole Foods-Amazon deal, more importantly, is a real existential threat to retailers and CPG companies who don’t understand how to do direct-to-consumer, don’t know how to build authentic relationships online and don’t know how to really build the technology and data-driven, back-end competencies to make that work, and I think it’s a lot like blockbuster versus Netflix but a much greater scale, and I think over the next five years, we’re going to see tremendous disruption among traditional grocery players that are going to really suffer a lot.
Ben: Interesting, okay. Got it. Now I have another question for you that might not be related to groceries but intrigued me anyways by your background. What’s the whole Love Heals thing?
Gunnar: Yeah, so again being a student of social enterprise and the idea of business as a vehicle for good, my mom has been a jeweler for decades, and I went through a period where I was really burnt out. That was about ten years ago, I was burnt out on technology. I had helped co-found a natural language processing company which got purchased and just really burnt out on technology, and so I really enjoyed the tactile, tangible and emotional connection that I saw my mother’s customers had with her jewelry, so that came on. Let’s build a socially conscious, fair-trade jewelry business around the idea of love and beauty, and so that’s what we’ve done. We’ve seventy-five employees in that business. It’s been going for about ten years, and it’s really focused on the idea of spreading beauty in the world and doing that in an ethical way.
Ben: Now these aren’t actually pieces of jewelry designed to vibrate at specific frequencies associated with love or something like that?
Gunnar: No, no.
Ben: Okay, that’s what I was curious about. Have you seen the Love Tuner before?
Gunnar: No, but I’ve seen stuff like Q Link and some of those things.
Ben: Yeah, no the Love Tuner is a necklace with a little tuner on it, and you blow it and it vibrates at about 528 Hertz, which is the frequency associated with the emotion of love. It’s really kind of a cool concept. Whenever you need a pick-me-up, you blow on this thing.
Gunnar: Yeah, I mean at the end of the day, we are energy, right? So there’s a lot of actual science that supports some of those things, but for example, we did decline at one point at the height of the civil war in Sudan, at the Dark Floor Conflict. We did a lie of jewelry where every piece of jewelry sold, we got a child out of slavery. So we did stuff like that, and those are beautiful things. Again one of the things I love about Thrive Market is that at the actual core of the business, the success of the business, making healthy living affordable to millions of Americans. It’s inherently a good thing, and the success of the business and the social mission are inherently interlocked in the same thing. Whereas in my jewelry company which I love, the social mission is a little bit of a bolt on. Obviously we have fair trade, working conditions and we take care of our own employees. We take profits from the jewelry business and then put them into programs like planting trees and children, and I think that helping people access healthy food for less is such an important issue. I’m sure you talk about this.
You know we spend three hundred billion dollars a year on diabetes-related illnesses, three hundred billion dollars a year, and that’s just one of several major lifestyle diseases. So the way that we are producing, distributing, marketing, consuming food is literally poisoning us. It’s poisoning the economy and it’s poisoning the planet.
Ben: Wow, interesting. I do like what you guys are doing, and before I fill those of you listening in on how you can get a killer discount, even a greater discount than what Thrive currently offers on Thrive, I want to mention one other food you should get. They have these spirulina super chips. Have you eaten these before, Gunnar?
Gunnar: I haven’t.
Ben: Okay, I was going to say. I was wondering if your job involves just eating everything because I had these the last time I was down there.
Gunnar: I want to see what you like for sure. So sent me your list ’cause I’d love to check it out.
Ben: Okay, I’ll give you my list of things that I thing are just bomb. So you have these sprouted spirulina bags, but it’s not just organic spirulina, its organic coconut, its organic banana, sprouted organic sesame seeds and organic dates. They’re like these little cookie bite, and they’re freaking amazing. Your mouth slightly grains, so be careful if you’re listening in. Rinse them with some water afterwards, yes.
A couple of others I’m a big fan of, coconut manna. You’re had that before, right? So if you’re listening in and you haven’t had coconut manna, which is this ambrosia-like blend of coconut fat and coconut meat and coconut oil, you’re missing out on a very important part of life. I’m a macadamia nuts guy ’cause they’re one of the best ways I do generally at a high-fat diet, and macadamia nuts will keep me satiated for hours. You guys have the Hawaiian orchards, natural roasted, macadamia nuts. So I’m a huge fan of macadamia nuts, I’ll sprinkle those on anything.
Gunnar: I know, they’re so good.
Ben: Pastas, smoothies, you name it.
Gunnar: I know, if you grate or crush them up, it’s a total cheese replacement.
Ben: Yeah, and I’m kind of a fan of lower oxylate seeds and lower oxylate nuts. That’s another reasons why I like the macadamia nuts, but pumpkin seeds are another really good one. My wife makes fun of me ’cause I’ll just take whole pumpkins. I’ll throw a whole pumpkin in the oven at four hundred and just bake it, put a little raw honey and olive oil and sea salt on there, and that’s my lunch and I’ll eat the seeds and everything.
Gunnar: I know, I love. Pumpkin and squash? Mark Sisson’s Primal Kitchen Avocado Mail, that’s the bomb.
Ben: Oh dude, I have not put the avocado mail on there, but now I’m going to add that to the list. So you just basically put mayo on pumpkin?
Ben: It’s amazing.
Gunnar: I’d probably eat that for dinner, that’s a primary thing for two or three times a week.
Ben: Okay, for those of you listening in, I will add that recipe to the show notes. Then the last one that I like is the sprouted pumpkin seeds like I mentioned, just because I’m a fan of pumpkin. So it’s just sprouted pumpkin seeds.
Gunnar: They’re for male reproductive health.
Ben: Exactly, yeah, and Celtic sea salt. So I’ll link to some of my favorites. If you guys want to hear some of my favorites, I’ll link to some of my favorites in the show notes for today’s episode with Gunnar, and you can go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/gunnar. Like as in Gunnar’s first name, G-U-N-N-A-R, bengreenfieldfiness.com/gunnar to get the show notes for today’s show. I’ll link to all that stuff, but them I’m also going to throw a little discount in there in the show notes, or you can just write this down right now if you want. This is going to get you sixty bucks worth of free organic groceries and free shipping, and because like Gunnar mentioned Thrive Market is a membership-based model, kind of like the whole Cost Co. meets Whole Foods thing, but you’ll get a thirty-day membership from them as well. It’s trial to membership for thirty days, so their prices are already fifty percent off, so that’s giving you an extra sixty bucks of free groceries on top of the fifty percent off of the stuff that you can find that we just got done talking about.
Wipe that saliva off the corner of your mouth, and go to thrivemarket.com/ben. That’s thrivemarket.com/ben, and when you go to that a lot, it actually gets you the landing page, it gets you the free groceries, the free shipping, thirty-day trial. Everything, so check that out, thrivemarket.com/ben. If you want to know what to get, what I’ll do is I’ll add that link to the show notes over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/gunnar and I’ll also link to some of my faves. We’ll link to that probiotic that Gunnar mentioned and his favorite mushroom product, the Vitamin C by Health Force, the coconut wraps, the coconut flakes cereal and a few of these others that are my personal favorites, so that you can grab some of those goodies for yourself and have basically like a little organic grocery shopping Christmas for yourself.
So Gunnar, that all being said, thanks for coming on the show, man. I really like what you’re doing, and kudos on putting together a great grocery store.
Gunnar: Well I appreciate it. Appreciate your support, and I think it’s just so awesome that you’re able to do what you do and serve the community that you serve, and it’s just such a great time for people to empower themselves with information from influencers like yourself where they can really get unfiltered information and it’s just really exciting. So I just really salute you for the work that you do and grateful for your support.
Ben: Awesome, thanks man. It means a lot.
Ben: Now we’ve gotten all sappy, folks. Again go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/gunnar, and you can access all the goodies there. Gunnar, thanks for coming on the show man.
Gunnar: Yeah, it’s great to be here. Thanks, Benny.
Ben: Alright, later everybody.
Let’s face it: grocery shopping to get high-quality organic food at a reasonable price isn’t easy. And sure – while getting fresh, local fruits, vegetables and meats – which should always be at the core of a healthy diet – you can use farmer’s markets, CSAs and local grocers.
But when it comes to packaged healthy goods, from nori wraps to coconut milk to gluten-free baking powders and beyond -there’s a host of options out there: Amazon, Vitacost, Walmart, Safeway…the list goes on and on. However, when it comes to buying online organic food, you’d be surprised at what you’re about to discover on today’s podcast with Gunnar Lovelace.
Gunnar is a serial entrepreneur focused on business and health as vehicles for social change. He is the founder of Thrive Market, which is making healthy living accessible to Americans by providing the most popular organic and non-GMO groceries at what he claims is 25-50% off normal retail prices.
He is also the co-founder and co-owner of Love Heals – a jewelry business in more than 200 high-end retail stores and with over 75 employees. To date, LoveHeals has funded the planting of over 1,500,000 trees and sponsored over 50,000 malnourished children. Prior to Love Heals, Gunnar started two technology companies in Los Angeles in software education and natural language processing. In addition to his for-profit companies, Gunnar has started two non-profits in education and environmental sustainability.
During our discussion, you’ll discover:
-How Gunnar grew up poor, yet still eating foods like kale and sprouts and kombucha…[7:25]
-Gunnar’s secret to never getting sick, and his top three supplements…[12:55]
-What goes on “behind the scenes” that allows Gunnar to provide organic groceries delivered to people with free shipping at a 25-50% discount…[17:25]
-Whether shopping for groceries online leaves a big carbon footprint and disrupt community small businesses…[24:30]
-How to make “cardboard” packaging out of compostable mushrooms or dirt…[28:00]
-Gunnar’s favorite superfoods, including sprouted chia, coconut wraps, coconut manna, sprouted granola and more…[32:45 & 49:40]
-If Amazon Prime is so convenient, since you can buy a friggin’ alarm clock and book at the same time I’m buying my canned coconut milk, why Thrive is any better than Amazon…[39:30]
-What Gunnar thinks of the Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods…[42:20]
-What is Love Heals? [45:45]
Resources from this episode:
Go to thrivemarket.com/Ben-Get $60 of FREE organic groceries + free shipping and 30 day trial! Keep in mind that prices on Thrive Market are already up to 50% off and now they’re giving an EXTRA $60 of free groceries!
How it works: Users will get $20 off their first 3 orders of $49 or more + free shipping!
All the products discussed in this episode can be found on my Thrive Market Favourites Page.
Eliminate fatigue and unlock the secrets of low-carb success. Find out how in The Low Carb Athlete – 100% Free. Sign up now for instant access to the book!
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-Human Charger – Go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/humancharger and use the code BEN20 for 20% off.
-Organifi – Go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/Organifi and use discount BEN for 20% your order.
-Blue Apron – Check out this week’s menu and get your first meals FREE—with free shipping by going to blueapron.com/ben
-Quarterly – Get your carefully curated box of goodies at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/BiohackBox.