Kitchen & Cooking

Is this organic grocery delivery service worth the membership?

I tested Thrive Market right at home.

Thrive Market review Credit: Thrive Market

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Getting groceries delivered straight to your door isn’t the exciting novelty it used to be. We’ve been writing about meal kits, subscription wine boxes, and standard grocery delivery for years now—and the COVID-19 pandemic has made these services all the more popular, fundamentally changing how many of us feed ourselves and our families.

So how does a brand stand out amidst such a crowded scene? Thrive Market, the Los Angeles-based grocery delivery service founded in 2014, hopes their membership model and wholesale organic products might catch your attention. Described as “Costco meets Whole Foods,” Thrive Market promises low prices, high-quality ingredients, and an effortless online shopping experience—especially compared to brick-and-mortar retailers—all within reach for a yearly membership fee of about $60.

But can Thrive Market actually compete on convenience and price with a behemoth like Amazon? And how good are their products? To find out, I received a Thrive Market membership and tested their grocery delivery service right at home, ordering two shipments of dry ingredients, paper goods, organic meat and fish, and more.

How does Thrive Market work?

Thrive Market box and grocery items
Credit: Thrive Market

Thrive Market is a membership-based grocery delivery website with organic options.

Like other wholesale retailers like Costco, Thrive Market requires a membership to shop their catalogue of products. Once you’re a member, you can place as many orders as you’d like, and shipping is free on boxes over $49. They currently ship to all contiguous U.S. states (sorry, Hawaii and Alaska) but can only ship wine to states where that’s legal.

The brand’s website is easy to navigate and organized into standard categories like “Meat & Seafood” and “Bath & Body,” as well as Thrive-specific categories like “Thrive Market Goods” and “Shop By Diet.” They also sell wine and some home goods, and their website is decorated with recipes and blog posts on healthy living.

Much like Whole Foods, Thrive Market caters to those interested in organic and non-GMO eating, as well as gluten-free, paleo, and vegan diets. As a result, their product list is highly curated, meaning you won’t find many “regular” grocery items like name-brand dry goods and bath products. If you’re a big fan of Skippy peanut butter and Crest toothpaste, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Thrive Market also highlights their program called Thrive Gives. On their website, the company describes Thrive Gives as “our one-for-one membership matching program [that] means your paid Thrive Market membership provides a free one for a low-income family, student, teacher, veteran, or first responder.”

If you think you might qualify for a free membership through Thrive Gives, you can check out details and apply on the Thrive Market website.

How much does Thrive Market cost?

Thrive Market grocery items
Credit: Thrive Market

Thrive Market has a membership fee, but their products cost less than they would at places like Amazon and Whole Foods.

Thrive Market currently costs $59.95 for an upfront, one-year membership, which is about $5 per month. If you opt to do a monthly membership instead, you'll pay $9.95 per month. Shipping is free on your first box over $25, and free for all subsequent boxes over $49, regardless of frequency.

Thrive Market also offers an initial 30-day free trial membership for new customers, as well as a money-back guarantee. If you don’t make back your membership fee in a year through savings on products, Thrive will refund you the difference to be credited to your next year’s membership. This might sound like a bit of a gimmick, but Thrive says that most of their members make back their membership in savings within their first two months.

The actual products at Thrive Market seem to cost a dollar or two less than what you’d expect for the same or similar brands at Whole Foods. For example, the Blueberry Hemp Ancient Grain Granola from organic brand Purely Elizabeth currently costs $5.39 a bag from Thrive Market—the same bag costs $6.99 from Amazon Fresh, one service that brings Whole Foods groceries to your door.

If you average $1.50 in savings from every product at Thrive Market, you’d make up the $60 membership fee pretty quickly, unless you’re only buying a handful of products a month. Of course, these prices aren’t fixed—but we were pleasantly surprised by the current comparison.

You can also earn Thrive Cash back on certain products, which will be applied to the next order with your account.

As previously mentioned, Thrive Market also offers free memberships for qualifying veterans, teachers, students, and first responders through their Thrive Gives program.

I ordered two Thrive Market boxes—here’s what happened

Back in May, I signed up for Thrive Market and placed my first orders to see how their service actually works. My first box was focused on dry ingredients and home products, while the second was just meat and seafood.

Because of COVID-19, grocery delivery services like Thrive Market have seen a huge surge in demand, meaning that many of their most popular items (including flour, rice, and coffee) were out of stock when I went to place my orders. About a month later, many of these items are back in stock, but shortages are still apparent across the site. Toilet paper was in stock when I ordered, but is out of stock now.

Although it’s frustrating to sign up for a service and find that many items are out of stock, this seems to be standard across many platforms. Many of the products we cover over at Amazon are quickly selling out due to increased demand, and supply chains are being disrupted across the board due to stay-at-home measures. We hope that these shortages resolve themselves over time, but it’s something to keep in mind as you shop for groceries.

First box: Toilet paper, tea, and sweeteners

Thrive Market order number 1
Credit: Reviewed / Cassidy Olsen

My first order contained peppermint tea, honey, maple syrup, and bath tissue.

For my first box, I selected four items, all bearing the Thrive Market label: a box of peppermint tea ($3.49), a honey bear ($4.29), a jug of maple syrup ($19.99), and a pack of bamboo hybrid bath tissue ($6.99). The order total came out to $34.76, but with free shipping on my first order and a random coupon code for 30% off my first order, my final total was just $24.64 (Thrive noted this as a savings of $24.89).

I placed the order on May 20th, and the box was sitting on my doorstep by May 23rd. Although I received a shipment notification, I was never told when my box would actually arrive. I was given a tracking number, but tracking is only available 48 hours after shipment.

Because the box didn’t contain anything valuable or particularly perishable, I didn’t need a specific time—but it would have been nice to know when to expect it.

The box arrived intact, with all my items packaged snugly inside. In line with Thrive’s sustainable mission, the packaging within was all recyclable or biodegradable.

As far as the products go, I was pleased with all of them—except one. The mint tea is delicious and refreshing for summer sipping, the maple syrup is of great quality, and the honey is cute as can be. The bar isn’t particularly high for these products, but I can confidently say I’d buy them all again.

However, the toilet paper was a huge disappointment. I know times are tough and toilet paper quality doesn’t matter to everyone, but the Thrive Market brand bamboo-hybrid bath tissue is scratchy, thin, and falls apart very easily. It was so frustrating to use that I hid the rest of the pack in the back of my closet and broke out better stuff from a grocery store after one roll.

The sweeteners and tea were great, but if you become a Thrive member, be warned—toilet paper is not their forte.

Second box: Meat and seafood

Thrive Market meat and fish
Credit: Thrive Market

I ordered chicken and seafood in my second box to see how they'd travel.

To see how Thrive Market handles temperature-sensitive orders, I ordered a second box about a week later that just contained meat and seafood. Besides selling individual whole chickens and new salmon and chicken boxes, Thrive only sells meat in two types of fixed-value boxes: Build Your Own Meat & Seafood Box ($119.99) and Build Your Own Seafood Box ($169.99).

The meat and seafood box currently allows you to mix and match ground beef, ground beef patties, ground pork, diced stew beef, breakfast sausage, chuck roast, sea scallops, sockeye salmon, peeled shrimp, ahi tuna, lobster tails, and cod. The seafood box only allows you to select from the seafood options, along with the “deluxe” option of snow crab claws. All meat is grass-fed or pasture-raised, and all seafood is wild-caught.

I opted for the meat and seafood box—at the time I ordered, chicken breasts and bone-in thighs were also an option (they may have phased the chicken out so as not to compete with their chicken-only box). I chose a box containing two pounds of chicken breasts, about two and a half pounds chicken thighs, and four lobster tails. The total came out to $119.99 with free shipping.

I placed the order on May 29th and received the box by June 3rd. Like the first box, I received a shipment notification but wasn’t sure when my box would be arriving. Luckily, almost everyone in my house is working from home now, so it was easy to pop outside and check for the box—but standard schedules might make it harder to bring in the perishable goods.

The box was actually packed with dry ice, which kept the meat and seafood fully frozen. I transported everything into my freezer with little hassle, but the box had a lot more packaging than the first that I had to dispose of (I’m used to this from testing meal kits).

When it came time to actually cook with my new protein pack, I was pleased with the quality of the ingredients. The chicken pieces were tasty and not too small or thin, and the lobster cooked quickly and tasted fresh. My one complaint is that the lobster tails were too small for the meal I had planned—four tails at four ounces each weren’t enough to make lobster rolls for four people.

If you only like to buy a bit of meat at one time, don’t have much freezer space, or would just prefer fresh options from a butcher, this service isn’t for you. But if you regularly shop for grass-fed and wild-caught meat and seafood, Thrive Market’s protein boxes are a great way to get what you need. They offer a lot of options at fixed prices, meaning you won’t have to deal with the day-to-day variation at a grocery store.

Is Thrive Market worth it?

Thrive Market logo and snacks
Credit: Thrive Market

Thrive Market is worth the membership—if you love organic and wholesale shopping.

Like many grocery delivery options available now, Thrive Market is tailored to a specific type of consumer—one that cares deeply about the quality of their food, shops almost exclusively organic, and can afford a membership. But if this sounds like you, we think Thrive Market is worth the fixed membership price of $60, particularly at a time when regular grocery store trips aren’t safe or viable options for everyone.

While we didn’t like their toilet paper or unclear delivery days, we were impressed by Thrive Market’s other product quality and pricing, as well as the company’s mission. Simply because they’re a smaller brand, Thrive Market can’t compete with the ubiquity and immediate convenience of a company like Amazon—but that might not be such a bad thing.

Sign up for a Thrive membership starting at $5 a month

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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