While we’d all like to erase the pandemic from our memories, those two or so years of worldwide social distancing led to some major changes. Digital services became a lifeline, and grocery-delivery companies with silly names like “Gopuff” and “Weee!” entered the mainstream. The online, membership-based Thrive Market — which specializes in organic, sustainable goods — was among the beneficiaries, in part because it offered a valuable service: sending consumers high-quality organic foods. But now that most Americans are comfortable shopping at the grocery store, the question remains: Is Thrive Market worth it in 2023? I tried it for a month to find out.
How Does Thrive Market Work?
Thrive Market is a membership-based online store that specializes in affordable, organic, sustainable, and fair-trade groceries. Put simply: It’s a more specialized version of Whole Foods that sells everything from skincare products to frozen meats. (You won’t find any fresh food or produce at Thrive). You fill up your online cart, pay, and then receive your groceries a few days later, with the option to set up a recurring shipment that’ll save you an additional 5% to 10% on your order.
How Much Does Thrive Market Cost?
Thrive Market’s pitch is that they offer lower prices than traditional retailers because they “cut out the middleman.” Of course, the service comes with its own costs, including the membership and shipping costs, which change depending on what you’re ordering.
Membership: $60 yearly ($5 a month) or $12 monthly.
Grocery Shipping Fees: $6 per shipment, free shipping on orders over $49.
Frozen Shipping Fees:$20 per shipment, free shipping on orders over $120.
Wine Shipping Fees: $14 per shipment, free shipping on orders over $79.
Worker Health and Safety Fee: This optional $2 fee supports employee benefits.
Gallery: Frugal Shoppers Share Their Favorite Low-Cost Grocery Stores
An Honest Thrive Market Review
Now that the details are out of the way, we can dive into the Thrive Market experience. It’s worth mentioning that while I probably don’t fall into Thrive’s main demographic — granola-core professionals in upper-income brackets – I buy organic produce and care about sustainability (though I’m also quite stingy).
After signing up for Thrive, the website has a fairly robust onboarding process, where they ask you questions like “What’s on Your Typical Shopping List?” and “What Diets Are You Interested In?” While I usually skip these intake questions, some customers might find them helpful, as Thrive uses them to recommend products.
But, as I said, I prefer to skip the recommendations and explore the website, which I found fairly easy to navigate. You can browse by aisles (categories), diets, and brands, or explore the deals tab, where Thrive features its discounted products.
Finding products is a fairly seamless experience, and folks with special diets — vegan, gluten-free, keto, paleo, etc. — will find it easy to locate suitable groceries.
The main issue I have with the user interface is that Thrive doesn’t include per-unit price information until you click on a product for more details. Another mildly annoying Thrive quirk is that they tantalize users with discounts that I found misleading. When I was signing up for Thrive, for instance, they sweetened the deal with a welcome grocery box. But when I went to check out, I discovered that this “deal” was contingent on my purchasing an annual membership.
TL;DR: Thrive’s website is easy to navigate thanks to its many categories, but some of its surprise promos can be deceptive, and products lack clear per-unit pricing.
Packaging and Shipping
The infuriating thing about Thrive’s shipping system is that wine, frozen foods, and groceries all ship separately. So if you want to go grocery shopping and pick up some pasta, snacks, a bottle of wine, and a few frozen foods, you could pay up to $40 in shipping. Since I didn’t want to go through the hassle — not to mention fulfilling the $65 frozen food minimum — I ordered a few boring pantry staples.
That said, Thrive deserves kudos for delivering my groceries in a day (!), and for their sustainable packaging and carbon-neutral shipping (however, carbon offsets are kind of bullshit).
TL;DR: Shipping is fast. But groceries, wine, and frozen foods are packaged separately, so it can be frustrating and expensive.
I’ll readily admit that my grocery order was pretty boring, especially when Thrive Market offers niche products like “adaptogenic trail mix.” But I’m a frugal shopper, so I bought everyday staples and tried Thrive Market’s cheap in-house brand.
The quality was just OK. Take the oat milk, for example. Thrive’s organic oat beverage was watery and sweet, significantly worse than Oatly or Whole Foods’ off-brand product. The pasta was similarly mediocre, and I found myself wishing I’d gone to Trader Joe’s.
Of course, Thrive Market also sells brand-name products like KIND, Califia Farms, and Garden of Life, so you won't be stuck with the store's low-quality house brand.
TL;DR: Thrive Market’s in-house brand is lacking when it comes to quality, though the online store also sells popular name-brand products.
When I compared Thrive Market to my local Whole Foods and Sprouts, the membership-based store came up short. After all, its entire pitch is that you’ll save money by shopping there, and yet Thrive Market prices fail to compete with comparable brick-and-mortar retailers. For now, I’ll stick to shopping at Trader Joe’s, where I can buy organic products without paying for a monthly membership.
TL;DR: Thrive Market is consistently more expensive than Whole Foods.
|Thrive Market||Whole Foods||Sprouts||Winner|
|Rao's Marinara Sauce||$5.62||$6.56||$8.99||Thrive Market|
|Organic Store-Brand Spaghetti||$2.06||$1.49||$1.99||Whole Foods|
|Organic Store-Brand Olive Oil||$6.41||$10.49||$5.99||Sprouts|
|Boom Chicka Pop Kettle Corn||$3.49||$3.41||$3.99||Whole Foods|
|Beyond Meat Patties||$6.89||$4.31||$4.99||Whole Foods|
Thrive Market gets a lot right. Its website is easy to navigate and it has a wide variety of organic products that you’d struggle to find at a typical grocery store. But it doesn’t deliver on its central promise: to provide low-cost organic foods. Unless you live in a rural area, rely on delivery, or absolutely need "adaptogenic trail mix," stick with your local retailer.
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