Eco? Avoid In-House Brands, Generics, Private Labels (in Whole Foods, etc.), says Umbra of

Via Waylon Lewis
on Dec 11, 2008
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Josh Onysko of Pangea and I talked this issue over a few years back—and ever since I’ve avoided grocery shopping for house brands. It’s not that they’re bad, but they’re not good. And for the past few months, every time I’m in one of Boulder, Colorado’s four Whole Foods locations, and I’m spending an extra quarter to support a small, independent company, I’ve wondered if House Brands really were, if not bad, not good.

Then, along came my idol Umbra, of Grist, with wisdom and wit to save the day:


Private labels give the grocer a higher profit margin — 8 to 10 percent, according to one source — while offering copycat products at lower prices to consumers. Whether these products are good as the others in your eyes is up to you. As I said, they are technically meeting the organic guidelines. To me, however, they represent the further consolidation of the food industry, away from a diversity of purveyors and to the detriment of farmers, who certainly do not get any more of your food dollar. Additionally, any farmer large enough to supply a grocer’s private label — or even the organic versions of mainstream products like Oreos and Raisin Bran — is farming at a very large scale indeed, and though large-scale organic is better than large-scale conventional..

…for the rest, go to Grist.


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


10 Responses to “Eco? Avoid In-House Brands, Generics, Private Labels (in Whole Foods, etc.), says Umbra of”

  1. John says:

    Everything I have ever eaten that is “Whole Foods” brand has tasted good initially, and then after five minutes, tasted bad or strange, and about 50% of it has actually given me a stomach ache or nausea. I’m not kidding. The food has made me sick about 7 times. I have often wondered how that could be happening. Does the food come from China, laced with lead and formaldehyde? Is it spiritually-dead food that upsets my delicate yogi constitution? 🙂 I don’t know, anyone else had this experience? I now avoid it like the plague, even though WF house brand is a staple at parties everywhere, which will hopefully change thanks to this article.

  2. Shamma Lamma Ding Dong says:

    So what is the alternative? You’ve got your 365 brand can of organic tomatoes for like $1.80 vs. a really awesome, small-batch can of tomatoes from some mom and pop company for like $4.80. I am all for spending the extra quarter, but the extra $5 spot? I guess maybe the alternative is buy actual tomatoes and slice em up yourself, lazy ass.

  3. admin says:

    Mia Wheaton (Knoxville, TN) Yesterday at 8:55pm
    Thanks for post. I honestly never looked at it that way.

  4. never thought about it this way, way. but in our economy, i’m not sure people really are going to speak with their dollars in such a minute way when they’re already at the most expensive grocery store in america.

  5. Mary says:

    So this may not belong in this forum but last night I was shopping at Whole Foods(something I do not do often because I’m a poor college student!) and the cashier asked if i would like to donate $25 in groceries to children in need. Are they donating $25 in Whole Foods groceries? This will feed a kid for a few days! It just seems a bit ridiculous to me.

    I tried doing some research online and couldn’t find anything. I should have just asked the cashier but I don’t think my feedback would have been encouraging for her.

  6. admin says:


    Amen. I have $500 in my account. Still, I don’t find supporting indie business and smaller agriculture a ‘minute’ decision, conscious consumerism-wise.

  7. Thanks for the post. Is very helpful to continue encouragement in the direction of smaller creators of our foodstuffs. Local. Organic. Small. The best way to go is always worth the effort, even if the “effort” is letting go a bit more of your hard-earned money. Money is like water, it nurtures what you give it to and creates more of the same. Want a brighter more sustainable world? Feed it your money.

    Hey, does Ele have a succinct local buying guide? First stop, Boulder. Next stop… could be very useful to all of us and a great place to accept advertising from those locals, too. I’ll look around here…

    xoxo H

  8. […] much did beleaguered Whole Foods CEO John Mackey rake in last year? Here’s the answer—including […]

  9. MissCory says:

    As much as I will defend Whole Foods– this article definitely has validity. Copy-cat products are the wal*mart of private labels, but they do offer a higher quality alternative to other private labels. You must compare apples to apples, not apples to oranges. Be conscious consumers. I would love to support all those family farms, and i do for certain products, but my budget does not allow it, unfortunately. ::applies for food stamps::

  10. Glenn says:

    Whole Foods odd Valentines Day email promotion