Brandless Rips Off the Brand-Aid

By Laura Rubio, Staff Writer

Brands play an increasingly significant role in our everyday lives. From people standing in long lines for Supreme and Kith to shoppers spending whole paychecks on famous brands, their influence on society is a reality of life. Brand loyalists say there is a quality or consistency to the product that’s worth the extra money. Others want to maximize their purchases for the most affordable prices and sway from the mainstream. These are ideal customers for Brandless, a company that sells, as the name suggests, products for $3 per piece.

Brandless is able to sell high-quality products at a low price — such as food, household, personal care and beauty products — because the company circumvents marketing and advertising costs. Tina Sharkey, the co-founder and CEO of Brandless, called it the BrandTax.

“While consumers associate these higher markups as better for you, we’re proving the opposite,” Sharkey said in an email to WSN. “Better doesn’t need to cost more.”

Brandless highlights how much companies up-sale brand products like beauty products, which consumers overpay for by as much as 370 percent. This is one of the main reasons Sharkey and her co-founder, Ido Leffler, started their company.

“If people really understood what things cost versus what they pay for them, they’d be, in his words [Leffler’s], rioting in the streets,” Sharkey said.

Without having to worry about brand-related costs, Brandless focuses on ethical practices. This is perhaps its most impressive feat since prices tend to increase when products are made to meet ethical standards.

“All our food is non-GMO,” Sharkey said. “Most of it is organic. Tons of it is gluten-free. All of our beauty and our personal care are clean and made cruelty free from animal testing.”

After hearing all these positives, I wanted to see for myself whether the quality matched up, so I tried Brandless myself and was overall pleased with the experience. While its selection of products was limited, it did have the basics in food, household, beauty, personal care, health, home and office.

On a generous budget of $10, I bought a citrus bergamot hand cream, a box of white cheddar mac and cheese and a bag of medium-roast coffee — all for $3 each. Brandless offered me a $1 shipping rate since I was a first-time customer, so my order matched my budget exactly.

I made my purchase on a Monday night, and by Friday evening, I was digging in to my freshly delivered goods.

The package designs of the products were clean and simple. My coffee came in a brown plastic bag with a resealable tab, my hand cream in a bright orange plastic tube and my mac and cheese in a light yellow cardboard box.

All three products were labeled in a straightforward fashion: Medium Roast Coffee, Hand Cream and Shells & White Cheddar. Below each product was a list of the products’ qualities, such as organic, fair trade and cruelty-free. It gave me the information I needed; nothing more, nothing less.

The quality of the products was up-to-par. The hand cream was made with shea butter, which made it smooth and gentle, but I wish the citrus bergamot scent had been more prominent. The mac and cheese was creamy and substantial. The coffee was out-of-the-ballpark good. Truthfully, I’ve been drinking it exclusively since I bought it.

That said, don’t expect Costco-sized products at this price. The mac and cheese was six ounces per box. The coffee was also six ounces while the hand cream was only three fluid ounces. Although the quantities may seem slightly meager, it’s all in all a reasonable deal for the price — especially paying $3 for two boxes of mac and cheese — and I think that’s the point of Brandless.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Feb. 26 print edition. Email Laura Rubio at [email protected]