Podcast

Shattering Wellness Elitism: Gunnar Lovelace’s Mission to Make Healthy Food Affordable For Everyone

By November 1, 2015May 23rd, 20199 Comments

“It’s absolutely incumbent upon us to envision a world where we produce food that is good for the planet and is good for our bodies and is affordable for everybody. And if we can do that we will pass a world along that is regenerative, sustainable, and equitable.”

Gunnar Lovelace


Who has time for ‘wellness’? I’m just trying to pay the bills.

I would love to eat healthy, but I simply can’t afford it.

When it comes to great food – plant-based or otherwise — the common refrain is that its either too expensive, inconvenient or simply unavailable. Often it’s all of the above. Although I often rebut several myths that swirl around these arguments, it’s undeniable that there is much truth in these assertions. Whole Foods has earned the moniker Whole Paycheck for a reason. If we want to truly redress our health care problems, we need to lay ruin to the elitism that so unfortunately undermines populist accessibility to optimal nutrition.

In order to achieve this end, we must disrupt traditional supply chain methods. Combat special interests that entrench the status quo. Eliminate overpaid middle men. And leverage forward-thinking innovation to improve access, convenience and affordability to healthy food beyond the well healed for those who need it most — everyone.

Gunnar Lovelace to the rescue.

Yes, that is his real name. A life-long wellness advocate reared on a true-to-life commune by a single mom, Gunnar inherited his passion for health, yoga, mindfulness and expanded consciousness at birth — long before it became a zeitgeist thing. 

Gunnar and I go way back. Years before my personal transformation. I still vividly recall our initial meeting when he walked into my law office in 2000 to discuss representation of his venture of the moment, GoodLife — an early internet socially conscious Yelp. On his feet were sandals. In his hand? A large mason jar filled with a mysterious and murky green sludge. What is that? Who brings something like that to a meeting with a lawyer? My very first glimpse of what I did not know at the time would later become a staple of my life.

Well ahead of its time, GoodLife fell victim to the dot-com bubble of the early aughts. But a long-lasting friendship survived.

A serial entrepreneur, now Gunnar is back and on to something big — very big — as the founder and co-CEO of a new business that represents a seismic shift in affordable access to healthy food — Thrive Market.

The digital love child of Costco and Whole Foods, Thrive is a direct to consumer, online shopping club platform that offers over 4,000 of best, healthiest, most popular natural and organic food brands in the world, but at a staggering 25-50% off typical retail prices, shipped anywhere in the United States for free.

How do they do it? By eliminating all the aforementioned middle men — the brokers, slotting fees and pay-to-play that is endemic in the food industry — and passing that savings along to members. In addition, for every paid membership to Thrive ($60 / year), they give a free membership to a low income family, a teacher, or a military vet.

Although founded less than two years ago, Thrive is growing incredibly fast. Beyond notable seed investors like Tony Robbins and Deepak Chopra, this past summer they closed a $30M Series A round of venture funding led by Greycroft with participants like John Legend, Toby Maguire & Demi Moore. These funds are already hard at work fulfilling Thrive’s mission statement, which is to make healthy living easy and affordable for every American family. Good news for everyone.

Not your typical startup founder, Gunnar’s keen business acumen inhabits the ethos of a yoga teacher. He’s got a huge heart. He’s one of the good guys. And I am super proud of what he is building — a positive, quantum shift in the socio-economic fulcrum to broaden healthy food access for all.

NOTE: Just in case you are wondering, this is NOT a paid endorsement of Thrive. Based on our long-standing friendship and consistent missions, Gunnar and Thrive graciously contributed to our cookbook pre-order campaign last May. However, I have no financial involvement or relationship with the company. I simply appreciate Gunnar and have been wanting to get him on the show for a long time. That said, and in complete transparency, in the aftermath of my conversation with Gunnar we have discussed the possibility of Thrive sponsoring future episodes of the podcast, which I would welcome given the simpatico nature of our shared interests.

This is a a great conversation that spans a variety of general topics, including entrepreneurship, social responsibility, conscious capitalism, the current state of health in America and solving the problem of providing easy and affordable access to healthy food for everyone. Specifics include:

  • the life of a startup founder
  • productivity & wellness routines
  • growing up in a group living scenario
  • leveraging media and technology for social change
  • conscious capitalism and free market economics
  • addressing affordable access to wellness
  • sustainability & populations growth
  • the impact of Burning Man
  • the educational roadmap to impacting lives
  • how to scale a core business

It’s my honor to introduce you to my friend Gunnar. I sincerely hope you enjoy the exchange and look forward to your thoughts in the comments section below.

Peace + Plants,

RR-SIGNATURE-FOR-WEB 110

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Thanks to this week’s sponsors:

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SCOTTeVEST: With clothes designed to keep all of your gear organized and secure, you can focus on more important things—like your life. Go to www.SCOTTeVEST.com/richroll and get 20% off with the coupon code “RICHROLL“.

SHOW NOTES

Connect With Gunnar: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Thrive Market’s mission is to make healthy living easy and affordable for everyone. To learn more, visit ThriveMarket.com

Love Heals is a socially conscious family business based on Ojai, California that plants trees for each piece of artisanal jewelry sold. For more information, visit loveheals.com

Background, Context & Reference:

Notable People Discussed in today’s podcast:

Related Podcasts You Might Enjoy:

Production by Dean Menta. Music & sound design by Tyler Piatt. Additional production by Chris Swan. Graphic art by Shawn Patterson.

*Disclosure:Books and products denoted with an asterisk are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

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9 Comments

  • Cocrcici says:

    Love

  • Tommy F says:

    Creating a system which brings healthy food, that is convenient and affordable to everybody, is well overdue. In the equation of food, it seems that the priorities go like this.. convenience, price, taste.. then nutrition. It’s all backwards. That’s why fast food joints, Walmart’s and 99-cent stores are so prevalent in our culture. In a business model like Thrive’s, both convenience and price are addressed.. Thus, the consumer is liberated to put greater focus and emphasis on nutrition and taste. It’s time to hospice the death of the old unsustainable systems and structures and to midwife the birth of new sustainable systems and new ways of delivering products.

    That being said.. it’s so easy and convenient to browse down a supermarket aisle like Whole Foods and flick all the products you want off the shelves and into the shopping basket. If Thrive could create a virtual web-based shopping center experience, where the user was able to cruise the aisles and click the stuff they wanted to drop into a virtual shopping cart, the experience would probably merge closer to what the consumer is used to. Then, they can price compare at check-out, ensuring they’re “good” with the itemized pricing/savings. The conventional web-based platform, requires the consumer to click through links, navigating web pages of products.. which really takes-away from that comfortably conditioned feel of shopping in a physical market.

    Best of luck to Thrive Market! I love the spirit in which you’re conducting the vision for your business.

    Namaste

  • SG says:

    I think in it’s essence this is a great idea and of course it will take a while to streamline – and of course you will never please all of the people all of the time, especially when introducing new models – while listening to the podcast, it concerns me though for the smaller health food shops that have been in existence for a long time – as on line erodes their need /demand, as I am already witnessing – and their businesses folding.

    Anyway I went to good old google and had a look and wow there has been a lot of teething problems not brought up in the podcast THAT seemed to be around the memberships and not being able to cancel and expiry dates of products.

    I went to the site to see what it said for potential product providers or Brand partners as they are called – and was curious to learn that actually Gunnar did not really represent this accurately – in my case the wholesale price to retail is 40% less than RRP – so based on what he said I took it to mean they are selling at list wholesale and that they don’t really make money on the resale but the memberships – and the economy of that scale.

    Actually they buy from the producer at up to 35 or so % below the list wholesale and it is free shipping to their warehouse so that could mean various charges to the producer depending on weight of course, and then they want small min orders – so depending on the producer margins could actually be closer to Cost of Production. This only really works for the producer also on an large scale of sales – and then that means that smaller ethical businesses may not be able to be part of the Thrive Market place – I think that needs to be addressed – supporting the consumer but also smaller producers.

    My question is why was information and the what seems like massive teething problems with not cancelling memberships and having complaints with the BBB being made – mentioned in an open and transparent way and if it was I apologise for missing it ….

    Thanks Rich for all you do 🙂

  • diana says:

    Buyer beware. I compared Thrive Market’s prices to my local Trader Joe’s.

    A 28 ounce can of McAnns Oatmeal is priced as follow:
    6$ at TJ, $6.95 on Thrive Market and they claim it retails for $9.79.

    A 11.5 ounce Nature’s Path Pumpkin Flax Granola is priced as follows:
    $2.99 at TJ, $3.65 on Thrive Market and they claim it retails for $5.45.

    It turns out Thrive’s “retail” price is a MSRP that many supermarkets undercut. So, discounts are often not nearly as deep as they claim. I am glad I did my research as it is easy to be taken in by the highly attractive (deceptive?) seeming discounts Thrive claims to offer.

    I only compared two prices so I can’t comment on the others but Thrive’s prices looked high across the board to me.

    I spoke to the company and they tell me they beat prices only 90% of the time and admitted that discounts may not be as deep as they claim in relation to their competitors. i live in a metropolitan region with a high demand for these types of products, so I may be in the lucky 10% with relatively low supermarket prices that beat what Thrive has to offer.

  • Conscious capitalism is like clean coal – there’s no such thing.

    He never said “thank you”. Not once.

    We’re hanging ourselves with tech. Tech has killed and will kill way more jobs than it creates.

    In his and his friends world, no one leaves the house. Never. Ever. It’s what they call Utopia. What it really is, is North Korea.

    In their world, everything we buy is delivered to our door. “Yeah, but look at all the UPS jobs!”. Wrong. Soon, they’ll be no UPS trucks — everything will come to us in driverless cars or drones.

    Everything we buy comes from one company – Amazon. The connection to Amazon is controlled by 2 companies – Apple and Google (iOS and Android).

    We’re literally giving our lives to 3 companies while asking others to join us — “like”.

    In his world, there are no employees. Warehouses are automated, the delivery is automated. Zero people needed.

    In his world, there are no jobs for older people or those without computer science or business degrees. But him and his “community” will eventually cut those jobs needed down too. Because in his world, it’s about the money.

    In his world, tech rules. Build more tech, invest in more tech. Tech that kills jobs and widens the gap between the haves and have nots — no the other way around.

    In his world, it all starts with the funding. The VC’s show up with their war chest of money. The (I’m hesitant to call it a business, because a business makes a profit) business is built at a loss. Billions of dollars are poured in. As more money is poured in, more businesses (people) get clobbered, until there’s no one left but the founders and the VC’s.

    No one can compete against him, because it’s impossible to compete against a business that loses money and has money to burn.

    So what happens? Video stores, book stores, music stores, hardware stores, delivery drivers, grocery stores, waiters and waitresses, hotel workers, phone companies, utility companies, lawyers, accountants, nurses, graphic designers, website developers, programmers, doctor’s, all get killed by technology. All in the name of convenience and, of course, “a paradigm shift”.

    The jobs lost?? Let’s think about them. It’s tough to start a business when everything is owned by 3 companies. And once you get older, him and his friends have no use for you because “they don’t get it”. Their entire pitch is millennials. Don’t believe me? Walk into their office, how many are over 30.

    He’s right, they don’t get it. But they got it where it hurts the most.

    But this guy will tell you that he’s making a difference, charing the world. Because after all, if there’s a 1 million “likes”, it must be right.

    Soon, him and his friends will invent a way to have sex by yourself. Wait, they’re already onto it — virtual reality. Their next big idea will be to deliver robots to your door (remember, you never leave your house), with your groceries, that’ll have sex with you. It’ll be included in your yearly membership fee.

    If you want to see the world him and his buddies are all about, go see Ex Machina. Then imagine a world 100x worse than the story line.

    But all is not lost. We’re still in control. All we have to do to stop this madness is unplug.

    I know. We’re addicted. I’m addicted too. I’m typing this with an Apple Watch on.

    We’ve become addicted to consumption. Amazon, is about consumption. Social, is about consumption. Living digitally, this guy’s view of the world, is entirely about consumption and a game with a handful of winners. Yet he says he’s “socially conscious”???

    We all need to tell the tech companies and this guy to get lost. “Hey. You. Get off of my cloud”.

    We need to support our local grocery, instead of this guy. We can bring food to poor people ourselves. When we do, we’re making new friends. Not digital friends, or Facebook friends. Those aren’t friends. We’re making real friends, the kind that show up and help each other move.

    The net of the digital life this guy espouses is we eventually don’t need each other.

    We need to go back to buying from each other, instead of Amazon. I miss the hardware store. I miss the record store. I miss the bookstore. Does anyone else?

    We need to throw away our iPhones. It’s the only way. Facebook has taken away our privacy, well, we gave it to them. We can return serve by taking back the meaning of friends back from them. It’s the only way.

    We need to see the damage that we’re doing by being hooked on consumption. We need to see the damage we do each time we login to some social media site or buy from this guy. We need to get that they are not, on our side.

    If not? Oh yeah, factories will come back to America, yes. But they’ll be no employees inside. All robots. Everything inside will be done by robots.

    Your connection to the life you live will be digital, controlled by one company. You’ll use one of two companies to consume your digital life.

    It’s already happened. And it’s only going to get worse — if you can continue to fall for the joke.

    Because that’s the plan and they’ve got the money to make it happen. Everything you do, you’ll need to be tethered to one of two companies.

    If that’s the world you want, god help you.

    Because the tech companies won’t — they don’t have a phone number.

    This guy envision’s a world where grocery stores are gone, food is delivered by drones, by one company — the same company you buy everything else from.

    I’m asking you to envision a world where you knock on someone’s door, share a beyond organic meal with each other — no phones. After dinner you talk. The food came from down the street, prepared by people who walked to work. They have health insurance, great benefits and they’re paid well.

  • diana says:

    Me again..I did a little more research. I went to my local Whole Foods and compared 26 items. This is what I found:

    21 items were cheaper at Thrive with a $49.47 savings.
    3 items were priced the same.
    2 items were cheaper at Whole Foods with a $2.60 savings.

    The most significant savings were in Goji berries ($17.00), hemp seeds ($6.50) and vitamins ($3.30 and $3.50).

  • Aliza says:

    I was quite taken back by a comment that Gunnar said around minute 22:00. He said after college he found himself in a dark place working for the “Mafia and wealthy Jewish investors.” I am not sure what being Jewish had anything to do with his story. I was quite offended that he lumped together the Mafia with Jewish investors. I am a huge fan of the RR podcast but I was truly offended by Gunnar Lovelace’s comment.

  • Pam says:

    I just want to correct a mistake written here….they do NOT ship everywhere free in the US. It is not yet possible to get shipping to Hawaii (apparently free or paid) …which is unfortunate. I was excited to be a customer. The savings are significant compared to most prices here.

  • A says:

    Hey Rich, not sure if you read these, but just wanted to say I love the show. I listen to it often when I run, and I’ve learned so much from many of your guests, as well as yourself.

    That being said, I wanted to address a bit of a pink elephant in the room: I’m troubled by your clear bias towards inviting certain ontologies onto your show over others in, frankly, huge numbers. I just did a quick scan through all of your shows and broke them down into categories based on the race (simply “white” and “POC” (person of color)) and gender (“man” and “woman”) of the guests and found that approximately 136 of your shows have featured white people, 17 have featured POC, 131 have featured men, and 24 have featured women. Though this is admittedly quick and ham-handed research, these numbers are clearly skewed towards certain identities telling very specific (and lets face it, similar) stories. This is obviously not as easily ascertained by simply looking at someone, (arguably all these categories aren’t, but that’s a different discussion) but if I had included the category “sexual orientation”, I believe similarly skewed numbers leaning towards heteronormativity would have been revealed.

    I realize that the fitness and nutrition industry is a very white industry, and many of these people *are* the people on the forefront (the people with popular YouTube channels, the people with successful businesses, the people with product lines and TV shows). However, I think it is your responsibility as an ostensibly “conscious” individual who now has quite a bit of power and reach with this podcast to be asking big questions like: *Why* are these people on the forefront? Am I promoting certain ways of knowing above others? What might the consequences of this be? It is concerning to me that one of your catchphrases on the show is “helping people to live their best, most authentic life”. I believe the skewed numbers related to the identities of the guests you invite onto the podcast implicitly promote the idea that the white male life is the “best, most authentic life”. POC, women, etc. doing great things in the fields of fitness, business, and nutrition *are* out there, they might just take a little more work on your part to find.

    Though I like your show, I am hesitant to “spread the word” to people about it because of these very reasons. I hope you start thinking about these issues more in the future.

    All the best,
    A

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