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“Zero waste” grocery stores

This is a really interesting idea.

That environmentally friendly canvas shopping bag you proudly lug to the grocery store is about to get a lot more full, if you do your shopping in Austin, Texas.

You’ll need to fill it with your own reusable containers, because cereal boxes and beer bottles will be a thing of the past at In.gredients, a new-age grocery store opening in Austin later this year.

The company behind the idea says the concept is to create a shopping experience that forgoes any kind of packaging and instead lets customers buy as much or as little as they need by filling their own containers.

“Essentially it’s a very simple model, a throwback to old times,” said In.gredients co-founder Joseph Lane of Brothers Lane, LLC, which consists of Lane, his two brothers, and a friend of the family. “We were looking at a way of using these old methods to make it more convenient and easier for customers to participate in a zero waste lifestyle.”


Another component of the project, said Lane, is to follow a trend that he says is leaning toward Americans wanting to buy in bulk as opposed to traditional quantities. He believe that shopping this way will also be a cheaper option for shoppers.

“If you look at bulk foods, they are 35 percent cheaper than their packaged food equivalents. You’re not paying for marketing, or additional packaging, and you can also buy as little or as much as you need,” said Lane.

The Daily Texan notes another wrinkle to this idea:

Rather than open next to a major chain grocer for competition, the store targets areas known as food deserts, where healthy, affordable food is hard to come by; it plans to open in East Austin, which has more taquerias per square mile than grocery stores.

“We want to bring back the neighborhood grocer and get into areas where good food is missing,” Lane said. “There are convenient stores filled with junk food, but not neighborhood grocery stores with good quality food.”

See the Texas Green Report for a brief video overview of the In.gredients model. Sure, the idea of package-less food is a little radical, but I think this could work, especially if it allows In.gredients to compete on price. Whole Foods is many things, but your low cost option is not one of them. Combine that with locations in underserved areas and they may have a winner on their hands. According to the Trib, the Lane brothers have raised over 60% of their target capital and have enough to launch the store in the fall. If this works, they will look at expanding. I’d love to see them take a crack at Houston if that happens. What do you think about this?

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  1. Quikboy says:

    Thanks for posting this! Hadn’t really heard of the Texas Green Report before or I wouldn’t have seen the video.

    Anyhow, it is an interesting concept indeed. I’ve been working up on a report about the concept of user-brought containers over disposable ones, and I’m surprised that someone in our own state is getting the concept out to market. Though my report is more on a grand national scale, with specialized container markings, and such

    Though they’re way of payment is a bit different than what I was going for. I was thinking containers with special volume markings, and paying by the volume would be the way to go over the weight. With weight, you’d have to deal with the inconvenience of calculations, where with volume marks, it’s just a quick glance and input.

    Anyhow, if I ever visit Austin, I’ll check it out if the concept hopefully still lives. Hope they get one in Houston.

    An interesting theory though, as to why it’s hard to get quality produce in poorer communities is the crime. Many supermarkets or grocery stores have had little financial success in poorer communities, with an increase of shoplifting and even robbery. As a result, many have either avoided such communities, or go on the very low-end in quality and service. Having visited the HEB on Scott St. on the way to UH, I can definitely see this be a true reason. Hopefully, the best solution is to work up more patrols and officers in poor communities, and hopefully bring more consumer confidence in these areas.

  2. […] here for some background and here for their website. I’ll be very interested to see how this goes. […]