Based in San Francisco and Minneapolis, Brandless sells over 200 different food and household items at the low cost of $3 each. By cutting out the middlemen and unnecessary expenses, Brandless claims to offer high-quality foods and products for 40% to 370% less than the cost of comparable brands without a direct to consumer business model. This direct to consumer brand has even coined their own term for the costs of unnecessary middlemen: “BrandTax™,” which they refer to as “the hidden costs you pay for a national brand.”
Brandless offers products in the categories of food and beverage, home and office supplies, health and beauty, and personal care. Brandless also helps consumers filter and find the product attributes most important to them, such as: certified organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, vegan, no added sugar, and certified kosher.
Launched in July of 2017, Brandless is based in San Francisco and Minneapolis. By offering over 200 high-quality food and household items priced at the low cost of $3 each, Brandless is living up to its motto: “Better stuff, fewer dollars. It’s that simple.”
With their heavy focus on product quality and low prices, this direct to consumer foods and goods site has coined their own term for the costs of unnecessary middlemen: “BrandTax™.” On the company’s site, they explain this concept further:
BrandTax™ is the hidden costs you pay for a national brand. We’ve been trained to believe these costs increase quality, but they rarely do. We estimate the average person pays at least 40% more for products of comparable quality as ours. And sometimes up to 370% more for beauty products like face cream. We’re here to eliminate BrandTax™ once and for all.
Brandless appears to have started with a focus on food, but they’ve expanded to many other categories: household, beauty, personal care, home and office, and health. They have hundreds of products, all of which are priced at $3 (or less, in instances where a product is 2 for $3).
Does this true direct to consumer brand deliver on its promise to provide quality products at lower prices? A quick price check on a few items showed mixed results, but the majority of products here seem to be a great deal. We found better prices on Amazon for 1000mg fish oil supplements ($0.04 per pill vs $0.10 on Brandless), but on other household products like a chef’s knife or acacia wood serving spoon, Brandless’ $3 pricing blew away the competition. Other items like a 2-pack of dish towels or beauty product bundles were also found at extremely low costs.
For shipping expenses, Brandless charges a flat $5 on all orders, which would eliminate any cost savings on most products, if ordered individually. However, there are two strategies here for consumers: bundle many products into one order, or join Brandless’ membership program, which offers free shipping in exchange for a $36 annual fee.
The shopping experience is quite smooth, with the product pages set up similar to the way a grocery would: aisles. You see a few leading products from each aisle (category), and you can pursue that section easily if you’d like to see more.
One exceptionally good feature of Brandless’ shopping experience are the filters at the bottom of the pages. They’ve made it easy to reduce the selection of items based on features that could be crucially important for some consumers, such as: certified organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, vegan, no added sugar, and certified kosher.
Damaged items are replaced by Brandless, but otherwise, returns appear to not be an option in most cases. According to Brandless’ help page, “If something isn’t right, we want to hear about it. Please get in touch with us within 14 days of receiving your order at email@example.com. Most Brandless items cannot be returned, but we still want to help.” However, product returns seem unlikely, given the detailed product descriptions and high-quality product photography. Additionally, Brandless’ customer service looks responsive on Facebook, with the always-ideal “Typically replies instantly” label from Facebook. Therefore, questions can likely be answered quickly if necessary (before the purchase), via Facebook or their firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com addresses.
With over 200,000 likes on Facebook and nearly 100,000 followers on Instagram, this direct to consumer brand is clearly building a unique connection with consumers by cutting out the middleman and delivering value in the form of low prices and high quality. Brandless also donates one meal to the Feeding America organization “every time you shop on Brandless,” according to their homepage. On their blog in January 2018, Brandless said they had donated over 170,000 meals to date, as part of the program.
Overall, we love Brandless’ ongoing focus on eliminating the middleman to provide more value to consumers. Their one-price-fits-all approach is innovative, especially given the low price point and high product quality. Brandless is a No Middleman favorite, and a great example of the benefits that can be offered by a true direct to consumer brand that is focused on eliminating the middlemen and the wasteful inefficiencies of traditional brands.
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