Thrive Market Review 2017: Think Costco Meets Whole Foods
Healthy foods and non-toxic home products are important investments. However, if you do the bulk of your shopping in the organic section, or at your local Whole Foods, you can be in for some real sticker shock. This can be enough to turn some people off of a natural, plant-based diet.
But a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be limited to those with unlimited budgets. It’s possible, easy, and convenient to stock your pantry and cleaning closet for less money and time.
How to do it? Enter Thrive Market.
2 MAJOR CONCERNS WITH THRIVE
Before we get into the meat of the review, I felt it was important to go over the major concerns most negative reviewers are having with Thrive.
- I didn't know there was a membership fee
- I had a hard time cancelling
It seems that in some of Thrive's marketing they are offering up a freebie and a 30-day trial without making the membership auto-charge bold and clear.
This is unfortunate, to say the least.
I can't speak to their marketing because I haven't had a bad experience with the auto-charge - I knew what I was getting into.
That said, throughout this review, you will see the membership mentioned many times, and I try to make it as obvious as possible.
I'll also talk about the cancellation process and the best way to go about it. It is possible to cancel without any problems, it's just not as easy as it should be, which is why I've included it as part of the "Downsides" of Thrive Market (see below).
Most people judge Thrive on these 2 points alone (fair enough), but this review is going to give you insight into the entire experience, which for me, has been good.
So, if you are reading this and you already have a bad taste in your mouth, I wouldn't even continue reading as Thrive isn't going to be for you.
But if you are aware of these 2 points before going into you're free trial, you're experience will be good, even if you choose to cancel your membership before the trial ends.
WHAT IS THRIVE MARKET?
Imagine a blend of Costco and Whole Foods - a retailer that offers healthy, Earth-friendly foods at affordable prices.
One of the biggest complaints about going plant-based is that, at first glance, it can get expensive! Between supplements, vegan alternatives, and organic and non-toxic foods and goods, your grocery bill can take a hit if you don’t know where to look.
Thrive Market is an online retailer that offers members natural, organic, non-GMO, and non-toxic goods at wholesale prices. The company uses a membership-style setup to provide customers with access to an expansive product selection that’s easily searchable by category and dietary need.
I love Thrive for its vegan selection, but it’s also a resource for people who are Paleo, raw, gluten-free or looking to make better choices for their baby.
THRIVE’S SOCIAL MISSION
In addition to always providing non-GMO, fair-trade products whenever possible, the company also employs a “Thrive Gives” social mission.
For each Thrive Market membership purchased, the company provides one membership to a low-income family, teacher, veteran, or student. Thrive also provides educational content and grocery stipends to Give members.
This benefit is crucial - every year, 80 percent of low-income families opt for food they know isn’t healthy to make ends meet. Similarly, approx. 20-30 million Americans live in “food deserts”, which are low-income neighborhoods that lack access to healthy foods.
This contributes to a variety of illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, and more. These conditions ultimately cost hundreds of billions of dollars in healthcare costs and compromises the quality of life for those suffering from those illnesses.
Since you’re already doing your grocery shopping, it’s great to be able to give back to the community with no added cost or effort from you. The more people who have access to healthy food, the more our society benefits and grows!
To make purchases from Thrive Market, members pay a yearly membership fee of $59.95. This breaks down to about the cost of one fancy Starbucks latte per month - a little under five dollars. I find that I make the cost back in savings in 2-3 orders. I generally place an order about once a month, so it's well worth it for me.
Plus, each membership comes with a free 30-day trial period that begins with the first order, so you can cancel if you don’t love the service.
Thrive’s brand partners extend a 25-50% discount on all products to the company. The membership fee allows Thrive to pass those savings on to the customer, offer the product selection at wholesale prices, and donate a free membership to Americans in need.
Simply put, Thrive Market is a vegan paradise. Not only do they offer a wide array of vegan-friendly, non-GMO products, but it’s also super easy to navigate their website.
By using the “Shop Values” option, your search is immediately restricted to vegan products. There’s also the option to search by “raw,” but take care when using this option - the “raw” section includes products like honey.
I’ve always been impressed by Thrive’s product selection. Every vegan knows how exciting it is to see a whole menu or shop section where we can eat or use absolutely everything!
Thrive’s vegan section is no exception. The vegan section has 30 large pages of options (60 products per page), and offers everything from pantry staples to vitamins and supplements to plant-based protein powders.
I live in a major metropolitan city, but I grew up in a very rural area with limited options for plant-based eaters. I could see Thrive being an important resource for people whose local grocery stores don’t carry Earth Balance vegan cheddar popcorn, nutritional yeast, etc.
ABILITY TO EXPLORE
In addition to the volume of products is the variety. Having lived a plant-based lifestyle for nearly a decade, I consider myself well-versed in healthy, vegan-friendly products.
However, when I browse through Thrive’s selection, there are products here that I’ve never seen in a store, or even heard of. In addition to the products I know and love, Thrive Market offers things like plant-based collagen support capsules, black elderberry syrup, and avocado oil.
THRIVE MARKET HIGHLIGHTS
✓ The Savings!
I’ll be totally upfront with you: I’m a dedicated Amazon shopper. I’ve had Amazon Prime for nearly a decade, and there’s rarely a week that goes by where I’m not getting at least one Amazon box on my doorstep.
However, I also love knowing that I am getting quality, healthy products at the best price possible. I know vegan-friendly, feel-good items are worth the investment, but why not get the most affordable option? In many cases, Thrive Market provides a comparable, if not better, price than Amazon and brick-and-mortar stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.
Here are some examples of how a few products stack up:
*prices are as of date article was written - subject to change over time
Desert Essence Jojoba Oil
Naturally, this differs from product to product. In some cases, generally where Amazon provides a bulk buying option, Prime does win out.
The only real way to calculate your savings is to research the products your family uses most on both sites. I find that Thrive is a fantastic option for “specialty” products, which are often marked up, as well as vegan-friendly beauty products.
Want to see even bigger savings? Compare Thrive Market’s prices to your local Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or health food store. I see the biggest savings when I compare Thrive to these stores.
It’s also important to factor in the amount you’ll save on hidden costs of grocery shopping. Ordering from an online retailer like Thrive can result in savings that go beyond the sticker price of the item.
Buying through Thrive means you’re not filling up your car with gas, or adding to the wear-and-tear of the vehicle. It means you don’t have to drag the kids to the grocery store on a beautiful Saturday, which can result in impulse purchases.
Don’t forget to keep these costs in mind when you’re comparing prices - while they don’t show up on your receipt, they’re ultimately areas that can help save you money!
✓ Free Shipping Over $49
Smaller, cheaper Thrive Market orders (less than $49) are subject to a $5.00 shipping fee. However, you can save on this fee by placing a larger order on Thrive. Orders over $49 ship for free anywhere in the United States.
Of course, reaching that free shipping minimum doesn’t have to mean filling your cart with impulse buys and chocolate bars (though it certainly can, if you want!). The most cost-effective strategy would be to do more infrequent orders while amping up the volume of products purchased.
My rule of thumb is that I always buy multiples of items I frequently use that happen to store well. This includes dry goods like grains, vinegar, and canned goods, as well as home and beauty products.
In my house, we use a lot of castile soap - it’s great for everything from homemade shampoo to non-toxic laundry detergent. Whenever I buy it, I always buy as many as I have room for. That way, It’s easy for me to make the free shipping minimum, and I get the added benefit of being fully stocked, so I don’t have to worry about running out.
✓ Worry-free Return Policy
One question always made me hesitant about online shopping - what happens if I don’t like the product?
In many cases, an online company’s return policy might be lackluster at best - leaving you with a full jar (not to mention out the cost) of a product you don’t like.
Thankfully, Thrive customers won’t suffer this dilemma. Thanks to the company’s “happiness guarantee”, customers can return any product, for any reason, for a full refund. I love this, because it allows me to explore and try new products without worry. I know if I don’t love it, I can send it back.
Of course, this policy has some limitations. Perishable items, intimate and sanitary goods, personal care items, digital downloads, gift cards, and final sale items are not eligible for this return policy.
If you have questions about whether or not the product you’re interested in qualifies for a return, you can contact Thrive’s customer service team before purchasing. There’s a whole team there dedicated to answering your questions and making sure you’re satisfied with your purchase.
THRIVE MARKET DOWNSIDES
× Search Filters
I appreciate that Thrive’s website is easy to navigate, especially regarding dietary restrictions and food allergies. The only minor complaint I have is that they make it difficult to “mix and match” dietary restrictions.
For example, I can look for products that are “vegan” and then filter for “gluten-free”, but all other Diet options will disappear. So if I also wanted to filter out “soy-free”, that option would not be available to me.
As many people live a blend of the searchable lifestyles in Thrive’s website, I’d like to see the ability to check off multiple options to better tailor my search results.
× Savings Depend on Where You Shop
Thrive Market has the potential to save you a lot of money - especially if you do the bulk of your grocery shopping in higher-end stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
However, if you do most of your grocery shopping at Aldi, or you shop the ads of your local grocery store, you may not see the same amazing savings as someone who shops at Whole Paycheck...er, Foods.
Like any grocery store, Thrive Market offers some great deals, but it isn’t the lowest price for every option. To really get your money’s worth, you’re going to need to do some research.
Of course, researching and comparing prices takes time and effort - two things which are precious, and hard to come by in a busy lifestyle. With limited free time, you need to decide if saving a few dollars on groceries is worth it to you. As someone who is motivated mostly by price (and who also gets a sick enjoyment out of this kind of thing), I find it totally worth it.
However, if the thought of comparison shopping makes your stomach turn, you may not find the bargains as incredible.
× Delivery Time
After nearly a decade of Amazon Prime membership, it’s certainly possible that I’ve been spoiled by two-day shipping. There’s something gratifying about knowing a product will arrive on my doorstep less than 48 hours after placing the order.
Currently, Thrive does not offer any expedited shipping. You can expect to receive your order within about a week, but your actual wait time may vary based on your location, weather, etc.
While a week is a perfectly reasonable amount of time to wait for goods to be shipped across the country, many of us have become accustomed to super-fast shipping thanks to Amazon, or are used to simply picking up our items at the grocery store and bringing it home same-day.
Ultimately, this comes down to your priorities. With Thrive, you have the potential to save a lot on a variety of hard-to-find, vegan-friendly items. However, what you save in cost, you pay for in time spent waiting. How tough of a con the waiting will be will depend on your priorities, and how much time you’re willing to sacrifice in exchange for monetary savings.
× Membership Fee Woes
With the rise of subscription- and membership-based services, this seems to be a common problem. Some users report that it is really, really difficult to get your membership with Thrive Market canceled.
Other online reviews paint a pretty negative picture of Thrive, and this is mostly due to issues with the membership fees.
Of course, since you’ve read through this review, you know that to place an order, you’ll be charged a membership fee. However, some reviewers were misled by the “free trial month”, and were upset when they were eventually charged the fee.
It’s also important to note that your Thrive Market membership will automatically renew each year if you don’t cancel it. This means that if you stop ordering from Thrive, but you forget to update your membership preferences, you’ll be charged another $60 membership fee the following year.
To cancel your membership, you need to call into the company - there isn’t an easy way to do this online. For millennials like myself, the thought of having to talk on the phone to a customer service rep to cancel my service is pretty baffling - I’d much rather send an email or submit a ticket. Additionally, sitting on hold on the phone takes up precious time, which is frustrating.
As with any subscription or membership service, be sure to read the fine print carefully, and make sure you know what you’re signing up for when you opt to take advantage of any promotional offers. Remember that companies don’t give things away for “free” for no reason.
Once you’re signed up, be diligent about canceling your membership when/if you no longer want to purchase, to avoid unwanted charges and headaches in the future.
If you’re hesitant, consider putting your Thrive membership on a pre-paid gift card. That way, there’s no risk of having your account erroneously charged after you cancel your membership.
I would absolutely recommend Thrive Market to my vegan friends, as well as anyone with dietary restrictions, or who is just looking to make more eco- and health-conscious purchases.
I find the selection alone worthy of the membership fee. In addition to an easy-to-navigate website, Thrive offers products that I simply can’t get in my local Whole Foods or health food store - and I live in a major U.S. city.
If you’re willing to put some time and effort in, you can really stretch your dollar by finding the grocery products and pantry staples on Thrive that are cheaper than Amazon or your local grocery store. This provides people with the ability to eat healthy, natural, and organic foods on a limited budget.
With a free 30-day trial built right into your membership, you can try Thrive risk-free. If you don’t love the service, or it doesn’t meet your needs, you can cancel your membership.
However, I think you’ll be impressed by the vast selection of products, attention to dietary needs, and ease of use enough to make it a staple part of your grocery buying routine. Happy health food hunting!