When I first heard of Brandless, the startup that offers everything from pantry staples to dishware for just $3, I knew I had to try it out. I mean, organic peanut butter for just $3?! This could be life-changing.
How are their prices so low? As their name suggests, the products are brand-less, aka generic, so if you can't fathom buying something without a big, bold brandname, then this is definitely not the site for you.
But the lack of name recognition is also what makes the prices so low. According to their site, the company estimates that the average person pays at least 40% more for comparable products just because they're from a national brand.
Of course, low prices and quality (their entire food selection is non-GMO and well over half is organic) seemed a little too good to be true. So, we did what all good journalists would do, and we investigated. Here's how Brandless stacked up to our brand-name favorites:
Organic Crunchy Peanut Butter
Taster: Christine Aebischer, Editor. I consider myself somewhat of a peanut butter connoisseur, so needless to say, the bar was pretty high for this one. Automatic pros were that it's organic and there are just two ingredients (peanuts and sea salt). Although to be honest, I would prefer just one ingredient (peanuts), but still consider it a win that there was no added sugar — peanuts are already sweet, people!
At just 12 ounces, it almost looks miniature compared to my normal 16-ounce Target p.b., but unlike my go-to brand, I really didn't have to stir — which is a big pro for me.
Overall, Brandless' peanut butter could not dethrone my reigning favorite, which is about double the cost but larger, has a nuttier flavor and no salt.
Conclusion: Worth the try.
Organic Oats & Honey Granola
Taster: Jennifer Liu, Editor. Of all the things I tested for this experiment, the Brandless oats and honey granola might be my personal favorite. Unlike some of the other food items I tried, this one didn't disappoint on flavor. The oats and honey really come through, and best of all for me, the clusters aren't rock-hard to chew through.
Conclusion: Kashi and Kind run me about $6 at my corner store, so the savings with Brandless could be worth it if you constantly stock up on the stuff. Bonus: Every ingredient is organic!
Organic Fair Trade Dark Roast Coffee Pods
Taster: Julia Chang, Deputy Editor. I like to start my morning with a strong cup of joe — as long as it doesn't cost an arm and a leg. So I was excited to test out Brandless' dark roast coffee K-Cups, which costs $3 for a pack of six.
Normally when I shop for K-Cups, I balance taste and cost, typically buying something like Starbucks French Roast, which costs $14 for a pack of 16 — or 88 cents per pod. Taste-wise, I was pleasantly surprised. The Brandless version was strong enough to produce a flavorful cup of coffee, though it was still weaker than Starbucks. It did, however, beat out some lower-cost K-Cups in taste and price, like the Green Mountain Coffee Breakfast Blend, which costs $12 for an 18 count (67 cents per pod) — but which I find too weak for my taste.
Conclusion: It delivers on taste, but the small count means you have to buy multiple boxes, which means more packaging — something for a socially conscious company to be more aware of.
Organic Aged White Cheddar Popcorn
Taster: Christine & team. While this item offers some of the best savings (the popcorn and chips are actually two for $3), it was also one of the most disappointing in terms of taste. The white cheddar flavor just did not deliver, and it was described by Charisse Larado, our director of video, as "tasteless."
My usual popcorn of choice, Angie's Boom Chicka Pop, costs more than double at $3.29 a bag, but you also get slightly more (4.5 oz compared to Brandless' 3 oz) plus a whole lotta flavor. While I usually opt for the sea salt variety, I tried out their cheddar version this weekend for a more fair comparison, and was blown away by how much cheesier (in a good way) it tasted.
Organic Blue Corn Tortilla Chips
Taster: Christine. The popcorn may have been a taste-testing low, but the tortilla chips were definitely a high. They were light, crisp and had just the right amount of salt. Like the popcorn, a bag comes to just $1.50 for 8 oz. However, my regular pick, Trader Joe's Organic Blue Corn chips, offers 16 oz for $2.99 — and I don't have to pay for shipping.
Conclusion: A pretty good deal. And despite the bag's appearance, most of the chips remained intact through their journey.
Tester: Jennifer. Call me old-fashioned, but I like my mouthwash to be an unnatural shade of green, blue or purple — the more neon, the better. How else will I signal to my body that I'm not supposed to actually drink the stuff? (Kidding.)
The Brandless bottle is appealing, pretty even, but the lack of information on the packaging doesn't exactly scream "you can trust me to be a part of your oral hygiene routine" for me. It looks more like a store-brand bottle of water than anything else.
The taste is mild at best, bitter at worst. It doesn't contain alcohol, but also doesn't have menthol, which I prefer to leave my mouth feeling minty fresh. However, it does contain more natural ingredients like aloe vera, fennel seed essential oil and tea tree essential oil, if that's your jam.
Conclusion: I'm sticking with ACT. It may cost $2 to $3 more, but it's the one my dentist recommended, and it has the American Dental Association seal of approval. When it comes to a part of my health care, I guess I'm pretty brand-loyal.
Hand Cream, Citrus Bergamot scented
Tester: Jennifer. The bottle is a cheery orange and reminds me of sunscreen — something I wasn't that into at first. But the lotion itself was a pleasant surprise. The citrus scent is incredibly mild, and the stronger scents I picked up were from the shea butter and seed oils, so that's a nice, natural touch. My deskmate, Christine, also pointed out that the subtle scent could be good for those who are sensitive to strong fragrances.
The moisturizing factor is definitely there and stuck around even after I washed my hands.
Conclusion: I wouldn't fire up the Brandless site just for this product, but I'd consider adding it to my cart while shopping for other goods — I'm bound to run out of my gift set stash at some point.