Test Driving : Brandless

If you’ve not heard of the brand Brandless (ironic yet might make you sound oddly smart), then I’m here to introduce it to you. Clearly redefining what it means “to be a brand”, Brandless sells plainly packaged, high-end staples for $3 a serving. Think of what your pantry and laundry rooms need stocking up on, and you’ll probably find it on the site.

Brandless first came onto my radar late 2017, and if I were based in the US, I would have immediately jumped on the bandwagon. Sadly, being based in sunny Singapore, I took the leap recently to order approximately US$50 worth of goods from the site, only to be met with a US$70 shipping fee from my freight forwarder. Ouch. All in the name of testing and learning though.

Why Brandless?

Ask me why I was curious about Brandless, and the number one reason lies in the fact that 2 years after moving into our home, I still find grocery shopping confusing. Whenever I peruse Amazon Prime, I get into a flurry trying to decide which brand of detergent I want and what’s best for us, which then leads me down the rabbit hole of researching and reading up reviews online. Call me naive, but with Brandless’ branding and how they’ve positioned themselves, I’m open to trying something new that has the potential to be both a life-changer and a life-saver.

The perfect scenario would be that I’m happy with 90% of my purchases from Brandless, and I’ll be able to keep coming back regularly without having to worry about price, brand and quality. That would save me time, mind space and energy all at once – which is, I believe, what many of us are currently doing our best to find.

Why are so many people loyal to brands that they currently purchase, or why do people even purchase brands?

  • Peer reviews and recommendations
  • Advertising and brand awareness
  • Pricing & promotion
  • A positive past experience

If you took away the confusion of having to select what was best based on pricing & promotion, then removed the trouble of having to decipher which peer review online is a fake, as well as remove the noise of endless ads constantly seeking your attention, Brandless pretty much seals the deal, if you have a positive product experience with them, which is exactly what I was hoping to achieve when I pressed the “Buy Now” button.

The packaging of the products online was what first attracted me – not ugly, not cheap looking, but really straightforward, simple looking designs, with pops of colours that added that bit of excitement. Their font choice wasn’t too shabby as well, and I love their Sans Serif font choice as well.

As a pseudo-millennial, I was also drawn to the fact that with every order made on Brandless, the company would donate a meal to someone facing hunger via their partnership with Feeding America. This was very well in line with my personal belief that consumers have to be aware and intentional when it comes to purchasing – Where are your products made? What impact are you leaving behind in the world when purchasing a product? Brandless isn’t a 100% on this front yet, but more about that later.

Ordering online was really simple and easy – there were one-click buttons that allowed you to add bundles of products (many of which made sense and enticed me – they even have a DIY Beauty Bundle for you to make your own moisturizer and scrubs!) or even a simple “+” sign to add a product to cart without going into the product page. I loved how I felt like I was shopping in an aisle at a grocer, and how everything was simple, clean and easy to use.

When it comes to marketing, a quick look into their social media channels and blog is proof that they have an authentic, energetic team who are not only centred around the brand and its products but also its values of making life and the world a better place to live in by focusing on community.

How did my Brandless order turn out?

Here’s a list of what I ordered:

  • Organic Fair Trade Cold Brew Coffee Bag
  • Wooden Slotted Serving Spoon
  • Wooden Turner
  • Organic White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese
  • Organic Popcorn Olive Oil & Sea Salt
  • Organic Popcorn White Cheddar
  • Gray Organic Cotten Oven Mitt
  • Gray Organic Cotton Dish Cloth 2pack
  • Bagasse / Sugar Cane Fibre 9″ Plates
  • Organic Maple Syrup
  • Quinoa Chips
  • Fig & Thyme Chips
  • Lilac Dish Soap 16oz
  • Lemon Verbena Surface Cleaning Wipes 35ct
  • Lemon Verbena Moisturizing Hand Soap
  • Black Gel Pens – 4ct
  • Non-GMO Coconut Lemon Creme Cookies

When the box arrived, I was surprised by how huge it actually was. It was packed perfectly, and the contents in it would definitely have remained safe in the event of an accident. The quality of the items was way above my expectations as well – for example, the wooden spoon and turner were heavy, well-crafted with no splinters coming out, and had a lovely nude silicon handle for each of them.

The quantity of the snacks was more than what I’d expected in each bag, especially for US$3! My husband tried the organic white mac & cheese that day, and told me it was the best instant mac and cheese he’d ever had – that’s high praises from a mac&cheese lover and our family’s official cook! Plus, the husband is rather unhealthy and would tend away from anything “organic”. The next surprise? He popped open the bag of quinoa chips and loved it – couldn’t stop eating it, and continued to do so for a couple of days. That’s when you know the flavour matches the quality.

The last mention would have to be the oven mitt and dishcloth – they were well-made, thick and sturdy, and definitely better than anything I had in the house from IKEA or other brands.

Would I repurchase? For sure! I already have a cart full of products, and will be updating this post when I do place that order.

Would I be happy if my entire kitchen was stocked with Brandless goods? I’m not too sure – Brandless does work well when it comes to essentials, but I still relish and cherish the opportunity to purchase from DTCs or DNVBs, or a special snack or household good from a brand who produces quality goods with a story behind it.

The packaging and quality of all the products that I received was great, and I love how open the brand is in being transparent in what goes into each and every product that’s sold on the site. I’m already contemplating putting in an order for more mac&cheese for the husband, as well as more sugar cane fibre cutlery. The only downside though, is that I wish they shipped outside of the US.

Brandless also has a really interesting membership model, called B.More. for US$36 a year, members get free shipping on all their orders, with 10 meals donated on your behalf to people facing hunger. If you’re living in the US, this would make things so much easier for you to reorder anytime you need something, so why not?

How can Brandless improve?

As I mentioned earlier, as consumers, we now have to be aware of where our products come from, and the impact of our purchases. This might be asking for too much, but it would be interesting to see Brandless integrate further transparency in their communications when it comes to sharing media into how their products are made, as well as the details of their packaging. For example, how about the bottles that their soap come in? Are they biodegradable? If not, wouldn’t it be better if they were? How about recycling options, or ideas on how to reuse these plastic bottles in our daily lives? If Brandless wants to live by their motto of “Everyone deserves better.”, it’d be interesting to see how their employees and production houses are receiving better, and how the world is left a better place even after the purchase and meal donation has been made.

Brandless already has a page that clearly states their Standards of Quality, but failed to mention anything about the quality of their packaging. Also, it was mentioned on the site that products are made “under the highest standards of safety, quality, and social ethics such as certified GFSI or GMP” – what exactly are the Good Manufacturing Practices that they follow? This would make for interesting emails to their customers, especially since their current emails seem very product and promotion focused. More story-telling has to be done for Brandless, and such insights could be shared once a month to still keep the focus on their product marketing efforts.

Lastly, I do think Brandless has some great content on their blog – I would actually subscribe to it! They should place greater focus on sharing the content of their emails, instead of just having short blurbs from them on their emails. This would be something their tribe and loyal fans would be interested in and give them something to look forward to in their inbox rather than just product sales. I’m interested to see how this brand-free company continues to grow and move forward in their business, and how it would fare against gargantuan competitor Amazon.

If you want to know more about a particular product that I ordered, drop me a comment below, or email me and I’ll be sure to get back to you!