In an industry littered with excess packaging, it sounds like an impossible goal: in.gredients, a startup out of Austin, Texas, wants to create the first zero-waste, packaging-free grocery store in the U.S.. Can this ever work?
When it launches later this year (the company is currently raising cash on crowdfunding site IndieGoGo), in.gredients won’t be in competition with your local Safeway; it won’t even offer the same selection. You’ll be able to find produce, grains, baking supplies, oils, dairy, meat, beer, wine, and household cleaners–but no Twinkies, Doritos, or other unhealthy snack foods that could also be found at your local corner store. In.gredients claims that it will carry “all the basic ingredients you need for life (and most recipes).”
will perceive our competition as supermarkets, since we’re literally
revising what grocery shopping looks like. But really, our competition
is hyper-consumerism, which is just not sustainable long-term,” explains Brian Nunnery of in.gredients in an email to Fast Company. “If we were competing with supermarkets, we’d be setting
up shop across the street from one. Instead, we’re targeting areas
where folks don’t have easy access to good food–and are forced to buy
unhealthy food out of convenience.”.
But here’s the thing: it’s often the eco-conscious consumers who live in areas with plentiful fresh food that bring their own bags to the grocery store. How is in.gredients going to convince its customers to do the same? The company will offer compostable packaging inside the store, but customers in food deserts may at first still be uncomfortable with the idea of bulk foods, which can be intimidating to the uninitiated (just try scooping and tagging those grains as fast as you can while impatient customers wait behind you).
The company also admits that it’s not entirely free of packaging–items that require minimal protection for food safety reasons will get recyclable, compostable, or reusable packaging. “We
want to make good food accessible to our community,” says Nunnery.
In any case, in.gredients may not actually the first packaging-free grocery store when it launches; Simply Bulk Market in Colorado already offers a packaging-free selection of bulk items. But in.gredients is open to franchising opportunities (and to food deserts), which means it could come to a city near you if it succeeds in Austin.