Food Without The Wrapper
“Why raise a million dollars to fight against other beverage brands when we could be raising money to go to war with the entire consumer packaged goods industry?” -Rana Lehmer-Chang, (Founder of House Kombucha)
Help Crowdfund Eternal Foods!
Buy a brick in our wall for $1k and Receive:
- $1,000.00 Store Credit
- Save 10% off Groceries for LIFE
- Free Co-founder’s Shopping Tote
- Free Set of Branded Containers
- Your Name/Logo/Design on our wall
The World’s First Fresh & Raw Focused Zero-Waste Grocery Store!
Click HERE To Purchase Your Brick Today!
Founder: Bay Area native, Anson Abdulla has spent over 35 years owning and operating urban ethnic grocery stores as well as a direct-from-farm egg distributorship, Golden Egg. He is the owner of People's Cafe which will be turned into the Eternal Foods prototype store. He is the CEO and co-owner of House Kombucha.
Founders Story (Rana)
When I started House Kombucha I sold kombucha in the most pain-staking way, using .50 deposits and plastic crates to collect and wash bottles from local stores. My driving passion was bottle re-use. I thought I could divert enough glass and caps to make a tiny dent in humanity's single-use packaging nightmare. I thought by holding fast to a model of re-use I could inspire systemic change. I was ambitious and naive and wasn't alone. St. Benoit Yogurt and Farmhouse Cultures Sauerkraut were also using jar deposits and proved that customers were willing to participate in this type of change.
It turns out, however, washing and reusing packaging is not sustainable for a manufacturer in our present system. The cost of the cleaning and the management of the deposits adds up and quite frankly alot of packaging is still wasted. While fans were willing to bring back their bottles, the stores often got annoyed, and continually threw away my expensive crates. After 3 years of this, I gave up and went the way of Farmhouse Cultures, St. Benoit's and Revive; we all stopped accepting bottle returns.
Stores aren't pushing for zero-waste because zero-waste means zero sales. At Whole Foods they served their kombucha on-tap in plastic cups with lids and straws. While a mindful customer could bring their own container, having plastic on-hand certainly facilitates sales. Similarly, the bulk bin aisle at these stores are all well supplied with plastic tubs and bags. The point is not zero-waste. The point is product movement. Ever pick out 12 little oranges instead of grabbing a bag of Cuties? It's hard to avoid the allure of packaging when it is available.
Manufacturers get sucked into the game as well. We use single use glass to sell the idea that the product inside is more sustainable or of higher quality, even though plastic bottles and aluminum cans are actually more efficient. We're cranking out 4oz shots of kombucha tonics or multi-packs that involve packaging within packaging because these “innovations” provide the perception ofvalue. With each passing day every ounce of food produced is requiring more and more packaging trickery in order to get sold.
The whole world of natural food sales is so full of contradicting environmental messaging we honestly do not know what is more important, selling the concept of environmentalism to the customer or selling the concept to ourselves. As a manufacturer I know that side by side, zero waste products can rarely compete with branded packaged products. But we can't keep rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic. To promote zero-waste we need to change the game. We need a new model, a whole new type of store.
The Decision to Grow House Kombucha by Returning to the Mission
Bottled perishable beverages are the worst thing for the environment next to bottled water. They are also the most profitable and rapidly growing category in the grocery channel. By the time my kombucha sales reached $1.2Million, other VC fueled kombuchas were hitting the Bay Area hard. For 10 lonely years I had held proud to my 100% woman owned bootstrapped company only to find myself competing against brands with infinite investor cash in an old-world grocery model. I knew my brand was way cooler than the brands that were raising millions to win my home-grown market share. But I could not stomach the idea of raising money to go war over something as inane as shelf space. Meanwhile a young climate activist, Greta Thunberg, gave a viral speech reminding us "Our house is on fire. We need to act like our house is on fire".
We still need to eat
A zero waste lifestyle is impossible for most people. The few zero-waste grocery stores that exist right now mainly sell shelf stable bulk. Bulk bins of legumes and spices are great but the main drivers of plastic consumption are ready-to-eat fresh items. Simply look at the refrigerated aisles at any supermarket. These are the home essentials. Everything carried in these prime refrigerated locations must be moving fast and consistently. Dairy, nut milks, juice, kombucha, and coconut water are all essentials. Yogurt has become so essential, its category has metastasized to flood our planet with tiny terrible cups. Ironically it was the “conscious consumer” that drove the expansion of these highly packaged fresh categories.
Most plastic packaging will never be recycled. It is mixed into our compost, oceans and landfills, which are piling up across the planet. Bio-plastics are difficult to process and impossible to sort from traditional plastics. Most bio-plastics are actually made with real plastic and will not bio-degrade. Paper based cartons and cups, which used to be lined with bio-degradable wax, are now lined with plastic. The only way to stop the flow of plastic into the ocean is to stop making it in the first place. We are decades away from a global ban on plastic production. We can reduce the amount of clothes and gadgets we buy, but at the end of the day, we still need to eat. All our food is delivered to us completely packaged by plastic. The whales aren't the only ones eating plastic. We are eating it too.
It's hard to accept the fact that the plastic that enters our daily lives will pollute our earth for centuries. It's hard to feel like our lives matter at all when when we are seemingly helpless to this destructive path. What difference will a paper straw make when we fill our bins each week with grocery packaging? So many people long for plastic free lives but its the basic grocery essentials that keep us locked in. Eternal Foods will be centered on tackling these specific pain points. We will provide the highest quality, raw, organic items in a one-of-a-kind zero waste dispensing format while offering unbeatable pricing averaging at 50% below regular retail.
The Need to Invest
I never asked for a dime the whole time I built House Kombucha. People wanted to invest in House but I could not bring myself to lead a cash-charged growth strategy for House Kombucha. I thought maybe I was a lazy CEO or something but now I accept the pure futility in it. Any person with money to invest should be creating something new, not betting on show pony brands while the world burns.
One, well-positioned independent grocery chain has the power to change how food is sold. We are living in a moment of gross-over production with countless brands vying for a chance to be on the same, finite grocery shelves. I know many amazing suppliers who will deliver their artisan products in kegs, tubs or other reusable bulk containers. The customer base is there and growing. The only missing piece is the retail piece. We need a retailer who is willing to take a risk and say no to pre-packaged goods and plastic as a matter of principle.
We need investors to take that risk as well. Believe the kids who are on climate strike worldwide. Us adults with our money, capacity and knowledge, we have an opportunity to reshape the world. Be fearless with me and let's build the grocery market of the future.