Everything You Need to Know About This Costco-Like Members-Only Site

updated Mar 13, 2020
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(Image credit: Thrive Market)

When your goal is to eat better — whether that means more whole grains, doing Whole30, or trying something else — it can be tricky to find snacks and staples that fit your diet and your budget. But ever since Thrive Market hit the online grocery scene in 2014, its goal has been to make healthy food more affordable.

In fact, its specific goal is to make organic, eco-friendly, and GMO-free food and household products as affordable as conventional. And Thrive seems to be succeeding: The company’s products are at least as cheap, and sometimes way cheaper, than Costco and Amazon.

Here are 10 things to know about this members-only, web-based health food store.

1. It’s like an online co-op.

Products are mostly organic and always eco-friendly, which means there’s a preponderance of feel-good brands like Bob’s Red Mill, Nature’s Path, Seventh Generation, and Burt’s Bees. And prices are 25 percent to 50 percent cheaper than retail because members get to share the savings of the store’s buying power without markups. According to Fortune, “Thrive prices products to only cover the company’s costs to fulfill and ship, instead making the bulk of its money through a subscription model. The company charges a $60 membership fee, pegged to the cost of a Costco membership.”

2. You’ll never lose money on the membership.

Yes, there’s a $60 annual membership fee, but most members say they make back the cost of it in savings within the first few orders. And if not, Thrive will refund the difference at the end of the year when you renew.

3. Your membership will buy one for someone in need.

For every paid membership, the company donates one to someone who wants one but can’t afford it through its Thrive Gives program. These donated memberships are distributed through nonprofit partners.

4. It’s kinda like Costco and Trader Joe’s.

Thrive takes a page from Costco and Trader Joe’s by buying large quantities of just a few brands to get the best prices, and going directly to the source for private-label products. So instead of carrying dozens of brands for each product, Thrive zeroes in on just a few, carrying about 4,000 SKUs compared to about 40,000 at a typical grocery store. And its growing list of private-label items aim to reduce costs even further, to ensure it can offer staples like organic flour and sugar at the same cost as conventional.

(Image credit: Thrive Market)

5. And that private-label brand is legit good.

Thrive Market’s private-label brand is just called Thrive Market (so creative!) and it’s legitimately good. Our editors have tried the olive oil, pasta sauce, all-purpose cleaner, and more — and we don’t have any complaints yet!

6. Almost all the inventory is shelf-stable.

Thrive covers the middle of the grocery store, rather than the perimeter, so produce and dairy are out. Instead, think snacks, staples, personal care items, pet supplies, and household goods. This way, the company can eliminate the higher costs of cold storage and shipping.

7. But there is frozen meat and seafood in bulk.

This is a new category for the company and it’s getting rave reviews. If you’ve got the freezer space, Thrive’s sampler boxes of frozen sustainable meat and seafood are a great deal. For example, the Wild and Sustainable Seafood box offers 6 1/4 pounds of fish and seafood, broken into four-serving portions of scallops, shrimp, cod, barramundi, and salmon for $119 (or $7.20 per serving). The Free-Range and Organic Chicken box is even cheaper at $4.32 per serving, offering 8 1/4 pounds of breasts, tenders, thighs and a cut-up whole chicken.

8. There’s a shipping fee but …

If your order totals more than $49, the shipping is free. To be sure you’re never stuck paying the fee, you’ll need to plan ahead a bit. Do some meal planning and order your middle-of-the store staples all in one go. But try not to wait until the last minute because shipping times can vary. Although 85 percent of orders ship in two days or so, Thrive reduces its carbon footprint (and its costs) by packaging your order in as few boxes as possible. That means one slow-poke item can hold up your entire order.

9. There are plenty of promo codes.

Once you sign up you’ll get nearly daily emails offering savings like 30 percent off your order, or free gifts like jarred shakshuka sauce and hemp hearts. Although the steady stream of emails can feel spammy, at least they offer real savings.

(Image credit: Thrive Market)

10. You can shop all sorts of starter kits.

Maybe you’re new to the ketogenic, Whole30, Paleo, or gluten-free lifestyle, or maybe you want to ditch all your conventional cleaning products for eco-friendly stuff. Whatever your needs, there’s probably a bundled kit to make shopping easier.

Are you a Thrive Market member? Thinking about it? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.