Well Made

Jeremiah McElwee, Thrive Market: Sourcing more patiently – Well Made E144

April 9, 2021 · RSS · Apple Podcasts

For the past few decades, Jeremiah McElwee has not only had a front row seat to some of the most significant growth in the natural products industry, he's been one of the people in the driver's seat. As part of the Thrive Market team since its origin, Jeremiah has led everything from category growth and farm partnerships to product packaging and the shoppable values.

To build patient supply chain partnerships and keep an only-the-best product catalog, Jeremiah says they have to take their time, but you wouldn't know it from their 1 million members.

“We're able to form really patient partnerships with farmers. We're able to do a lot of innovation, lean into regenerative, organic.”

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 Jeremiah McElwee, Thrive Market: Sourcing more patiently – Well Made E144
 Jeremiah McElwee, Thrive Market: Sourcing more patiently – Well Made E144

4:10 Before he was self proclaimed "natural foods lifer," Jeremiah ate lots of processed foods. After and exhaustive, dead-end search for digestive issues, he started his personal journey with health foods in his early college years. He eventually dropped out of college to jump into natural foods retail full time. 

11:04 Jeremiah admits that in the early years, he had a New Jersey brand of skepticism for natural foods, but as he read more about the science of whole foods and vitamins, and saw results for himself, he was sold. The ideas he was reading as a kid in the 80s were revolutionary at the time, but now, he says, they're pretty basic.

14:48 Jeremiah moved to Colorado — the health foods mecca at the time. He was working at the first Whole Foods in Colorado when it launched to a community that was conflicted about a bigger corporation overrunning their local health food stores. He quickly moved his way up from juice bar to Executive Global coordinator for Health and Beauty at Whole Foods.

28:49 As far as they've come, Thrive Market is still working on solving some of the same problems that were their impetus for launching in 2014. They want to increase the accessibility (in price and geography) of natural foods, and make it easier to understand what's what. This is where their nearly 100 shoppable values come in.

35:15 Solving for accessibility wouldn't be possible without ecommerce. Without a set amount of grocery shelf space, Thrive can really innovate form factors, content, and recipes without the confines of a store. But Jeremiah attests that if you've ever tried to ship a can of beans, you'd know that ecommerce is not without its challenges.

48:09 Now, Thrive Market is working on faster, more reliable shipping in addition to category expansion. Reflecting on Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods, Jeremiah shares his philosophy that at a certain scale, companies have to make sacrifices to the integrity of farms and partners in their supply chain. Those are not sacrifices Thrive is willing to make. They don't build one thing just to break something else.

Also mentioned in the episode

You can find this and all future episodes on iTunes, Google Play, and here on the Lumi blog. This episode was edited by Evan Goodchild.

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