Walk into many grocer stores (or food co-ops) these days and you'll find bulk items — nuts, granola, beans and the like — that you can package and weigh yourself. Now imagine an entire grocery store like that.
This is the concept of in.gredients, the first package-free, "zero-waste" grocery store brand in the US. Scheduled to open in Austin, Texas later this year, the retailer will offer local, organic food products with a twist — customers need to bring their own reusable containers to carry the items home.
"Truth be told, what's normal in the grocery business isn't healthy for consumers or the environment," says co-founder Christian Lane to GOOD.
"In addition to the unhealthiness associated with common food processing, nearly all the food we buy in the grocery store is packaged, leaving us no choice but to continue buying packaged food that's not always reusable or recyclable. Our goal is to reduce waste and promote health by ditching packaged and overly processed food altogether — revolutionizing grocery shopping as we know it."
in.gredients challenges conventional supermarkets as well as consumer behavior — and that in itself makes the store an interesting test. The fact is, consumers have become used to convenience shopping, so will they put up with the idea of packaging their own stuff? And how will they react to store shelves devoid of pretty pictures and marketing messages?
The hope is that consumers will want to be part of "the sustainable food revolution," according to the store's website. "We want the community we serve to help determine our ethos - and the define what "package-free" and "zero-waste" should actually mean at our store. Package-free and zero-waste are new frontiers in the grocery industry, so we're pioneers on a relatively untraveled trail and need feedback/accountability from our customer base as we try to define new norms for the future of groceries."
Package-free shopping isn't the only thing that's different about in.gredients. The company is also encouraging customers to become investors by seeking crowdfunding through IndieGoGo, an online service that facilitates micro-investing. in.gredients is looking for $15,000 to cover start-up costs and has already raised over $3,000.
While this will be a first in the United States, it's not a new idea in the UK, where Unpackaged opened in London in 2007.
Christian Lane is confident that in.gredients' twist on unpackaged groceries will work in the US too, commenting that, "We want this to be a fun and insightful experience for everyone, and hope this can springboard new ideas about how we can make grocery shopping even more sustainable."
If you're nowhere near Austin, TX, follow in.gredients' progress on Twitter, Facebook and its website.