"I grew up really poor with a single mom," Lovelace said. "I remember living on rice for six weeks—or a couple of a months at a time. When my mother remarried my stepfather, we became part of an Ojai hippie community where I saw, firsthand, the power of group buying and a way to make food more affordable."
From a very young age, Lovelace was struck by a strange reality of the food system in parts of our country—“It always seemed crazy to me that food with more chemicals and processing cost less than food with less,” he says. So when he co-founded e-commerce site Thrive in 2014—with Nick Green, Sasha Siddhartha, and Kate Mulling—the company set a goal to make healthier foods and responsibly-sourced, natural products available at steep discounts to more Americans.
“We all come into this world in a different way,” Lovelace says. “I was a pretty serious child—and I was very concerned about survival, the world, and the environment. It doesn't matter who you are, where you are, and what the color of your skin is. People want to feel good in their bodies and want to take care of their children.”
By buying and sourcing directly from producers, Thrive cuts middlemen out of the supply chain—and sells goods at 25 percent to 50 percent below MSRP. “Instead of making money from the product, we charge a membership fee,” Lovelace explains. “For every paid membership, one is given away to a low-income family, a teacher, student, or veteran.”
It’s not just the consumer bottom line that Thrive is concerned with saving—there’s also the planet. The company’s recently-launched lines of baby products includes diapers that are “40 percent more environmentally-friendly than the conventional equivalent” and its new cleaning products range is formulated without synthetic dyes and fragrances.
As for what’s next? “We’re going to be doing a really big push around breakfast,” Lovelace says. “The American breakfast is a really important place for us to talk about and work on processed foods and sugar. So we have these really super-cool coconut flakes—like corn flakes, but made from fair trade coconuts. We have another cereal that’s all sprouted granola and Paleo-friendly sprouted nuts. It’s the best granola I’ve ever tasted. And we’re bringing out a single-ingredient non-dairy milk. A lot of [non-dairy milks] have stabilizers—but we had the revolutionary idea that we trust our consumer is able to shake the bottle a little bit.”
Here are the three products Lovelace finds himself re-buying the most from Thrive:
This story originally appeared on Foodandwine.com.