Our Business Model
+ Are you like a small specialty shop?
We’re a grocery store in scope and corner store in scale. We carry everything from meat to wine to produce in a small, efficient space. “Farmer’s market offerings with grocery store hours.”
+ Are you like a supermarket?
No. We’re not competing with supermarkets. Our business model exists in opposition to what’s normal in the grocery business because what’s normal isn’t healthy for our customers or the planet. We care about the future health of our community and local food economy, and can’t provide that by mimicking popular supermarket behavior (read more here).
+ Why are you shifting away from package free?
We’ve been ambitiously pursuing a broad ethos for almost 2 years now, and it’s time we hone in on what’s most important to our customers and, therefore, our success. Going forward our three guiding principles will be zero waste, local food, and community. By narrowing our mission, we can do all three better and make sure we’re around for the duration.
+ Is in.gredients giving up on its ambitious environmental and social ethos?
No! If we were to keep doing things the same way, that would be giving up because we likely wouldn’t stay in business long enough to have an impact. The shift in our offerings is an effort to remain a part of the community as a hub for quality local products and social/educational gatherings.
+ Is package free an impossible dream?
We don’t think so, no. But maybe this isn’t the time and place to pursue it so vigorously. We foresee the food and grocery industry moving in the direction of package free eventually, and we hope to be pioneers when the time is right. For now, we have to focus on zero waste (minimizing the poundage we send to the landfill as a business, which has averaged about 3 pounds per month), local food, and community.
+Will in.gredients be changing it’s offerings?
Yes. The majority of our sales to date have been in areas that have little to do with bulk/BYOC goods, yet a large percentage of our store is dedicated to it. In order to stay a part of the community as a local food hub and pioneering zero waste business, we have to make some changes to better utilize our small space.
+How are you deciding which products to discontinue?
The bulk goods that aren’t local and aren’t popular will be the first to go. With the space gained, we’ll be adding things we haven’t carried to date but customers have requested time and time again. We will continue to adhere to our strict guidelines: nothing on our “banned ingredients list,” 100% non-GMO, organic (or sustainably grown/produced) whenever possible, and local (if not local, independently owned – that is, not corporate controlled by Big Ag).
+Will you still carry produce from local, sustainable farms?
Of course! That will remain a major pillar of our “local food” guiding principle.
+Are you getting rid of all your bulk?
No. In the next few months, we will be phasing out those bulk products that have hardly sold and making room for products that will be more popular and help support our continued operation. The popular bulk products and the ones we supply from local vendors will remain.
+Can I still bring my own container (BYOC)? Will you still donate 5 cents to your non-profit partner?
Yes and yes. We plan to retain the best of our bulk, focusing on those items that customers consistently purchase, and those that are produced locally. For these items, our BYOC/donation program will most certainly continue.
+What challenges did/do you face with package free goods?
Let’s face it, branding and marketing works. How a product is packaged definitely helps sell the product, particularly if it is something new or unfamiliar to the customer. Plus, some products that are very popular with customers aren’t available or feasible package free (chips, for example). Another issue is visualizing quantities. When a customer sees tea priced at $45.00/lb the initial thought is, “Wow! That’s expensive”, but a pound of tea makes approximately 226 servings of tea, so it comes out to only $0.20/cup for high quality tea.
+What sets in.gredients aside from other Eastside hangouts?
Aside from our plethora of quality local grocery offerings, we are a great place to bring the family (enjoy our playground or show your kiddos around our garden) or friends. We’ve got local beers/wines, cold brew coffee, kombucha, and sodas on tap, plus a delicious menu of local food offerings. With frequent events, workshops, classes, live music, and fundraisers, we make it easy to connect with your community. Join our mailing list to stay abreast of all that’s happening here!
+ Are you for or against GMO?
Against. There should be no surprise here. We’re committed to selling products that are non-GMO (genetically-modified organism) and non-GE (genetically-engineered). GMO and GE foods pose a risk to the health of our customers and fail to execute our mission: to sell real foods and enhance the health of our community.
Shopping at our Store
+ Do I have to bring my own containers to shop at your store?
No. While we encourage customers to bring their own containers, we’ll offer both reusable and compostable containers in the store for filling.
We promote the reuse of containers to reduce waste – that’s why we encourage our customers to bring their own containers. A little planning goes a long way to promoting sustainability.
+ Your grocery shopping model’s completely new. Will you walk me through how it works?
Definitely. Come on by for a tour!
+ Is in.gredients expensive?
That’s a loaded question that depends on many variables and assumptions. Read our Open Letter and blog post about the “Real Cost of Food” for a more in depth look at the challenges of making locally and sustainably produced foods competitive with conventionally grown and processed foods.
+ Do you offer deli/pre-made food?
Yes, prepared foods are available. We carry a plethora of local favorites like East Side Pie by the slice, mmmpanadas, and Better Bites Bakery goods. Plus, we make some delicious panini and salads in.house.
+ How do you prevent cross-contamination from not-so-well-washed reuseable containers?
We follow best practices and guidelines for distributing bulk foods. We do everything we can and take extra steps to help minimize the risk of contamination in our store – including washing our scoopers/tongs multiple times every day and educate our customers on container safety. However, while our efforts will ensure a clean, healthy environment inside the store, we can’t guarantee flawless protection – no bulk store can.
Smaller bins and more frequent re-stocking will help minimize waste in the event a bin is deemed “contaminated.”
+ How do I keep track of what my containers weigh?
The first time you bring a container into the store, we’ll weigh it while it’s empty and put a permanent (and aesthetically unintrusive) mark on it indicating its tare weight. From that point forward, we’ll always be able to calculate [empty weight – filled weight] to determine item cost.
+ What forms of payment can I use at in.gredients?
We accept cash, credit, and debit as forms of payment. We also offer gift cards for purchase in.store.
+ Do you tailor your product selection to fit your community?
Absolutely. While anyone’s welcome to shop at our store, our small business model is geared toward serving our nearby neighborhoods. Our product selection will prioritize, in addition to what we define as “basic” ingredients, items our neighbors need or enjoy frequently.
A secondary goal of ours is to help bring good food to what most call “urban food deserts” – areas within a city in which commuting to grocery stores is complicated and long, and where the majority of food that’s practically available is the highly-processed, generally unhealthy food found in the typical American corner store. It’s more important for in.gredients to open in these areas than to expand into areas that already have easy access to great food.
The Bigger Picture
+ You guys are the silver bullet needed to fix the grocery industry.
Well, no. While we’re prioritizing local food, oil will still be consumed during the delivery of those goods because we live in a world that still runs on oil. While we’re going to hand-pick local farmers and vendors to supply our wide selection of food, we can’t guarantee we’ll carry that-one-ingredient-you-need-for-mom’s-recipe. The truth is, we’re out to fix a lot of things: packaging waste, education, health, the local food economy…but our store alone isn’t the fix-all.
At best, we hope to show people that shopping sustainably is possible and practical. We want to educate our community on eating healthily, improve our local food economy, and show the industry that zero-waste isn’t as out of reach as most think. If we help lessen our dependence on oil and rock the packaging industry’s boat a bit, great – but that’s icing on the cake. in.gredients won’t change the world – you will. The more people we have supporting us, the more other people will notice the changes that we can all make to live more sustainably.
Name and Spelling
+ How do you say your name/how’s it spelled?
Conversationally, our name’s pronounced “ingredients,” plain and simple. When written, however, our name’s ALWAYS spelled in.gredients, all lower-case, with a dot between “in” and “gredients.”