Thrive Market’s Gunnar Lovelace talks accessibility, affordability and sustainability in the food supply chain.

By Leslie A. Westbrook

Photo by Courtesy of Thrive Market

Nick Green (left) and Gunnar Lovelace co-founded Thrive Market to make healthy, organic products accessible to everyone.


hrive Market is an online membership shopping service that has grown by leaps and bounds over the last year and a half. The company sells, at wholesale prices, nonperishable, healthy, non-GMO and organic items that are shipped to homes across the U.S., usually within two days. Co-founder and idea man is Ojai-born-and-bred Gunnar Lovelace, who took time away from Thrive and his Ecotopia project in Matilija Canyon to talk about growing up in Ojai, the importance of food accessibility and his vision for Thrive Market.

You grew up in an intentional community in Ojai — how did that inform both your business sense and your mission to provide healthy food and products to the world?
Growing up financially poor in an intentional community where we ran a communal food program allowed me to see firsthand the power of group buying as a way to purchase healthy food more affordably and build community. My parental influences included a sense of social justice and active dialogue around how to create an egalitarian society. I was exposed to those ideas from a very early age. Those three elements — the food co-op, having strong social values and being poor — led me into wanting to make money through conscious business while being interested in healthy living.

Thrive Market has been referred to as a sort of cyberspace love child of Whole Foods and Costco. You have a “giving” component that provides a free membership to those in need for every paid member. How is that working for you and how many members do you have now?
We wanted to create a model that passed on tremendous savings to our members, and we are able to do that by cutting out the middlemen in the supply chain. We pass those savings along to our membership community, which is now over a quarter of a million members in a year and a half. For giving away free memberships to those in need, we partner with national nonprofits and we provide an online application for veterans, teachers, students and those who classify as low income, who are verified through a certification software database. We wanted to make sure, if a person or family couldn’t afford to join, they could gain access to the platform.
In your headquarters in Marina del Rey you have a staff of over 200 that handles everything from customer service calls to website design to testing recipes in your test kitchen. What do you look for in employees?
When we hire, we look for three things: talent, passion and goodness. We really invest in super-high performance and a metric-driven culture, but we are also attracting people who are generous, creative and team players. For us, the culture of the company is synonymous with the brand and it’s really important for us to invest in a positive environment with strong values that inspire the employees to really feel connected to the mission of the business to democratize access to healthy living.

What’s the best part of your job (besides going to work barefoot, or so I’ve heard)?
I love working in the office barefoot! It tweaks people’s minds in a fun way. Seriously though, getting to work with the smartest group of people I’ve ever had the honor of collaborating with and solving really difficult problems in a very creative way. While it’s super-intense, and I will have 15 to 20 meetings a day nonstop without a break, it’s deeply gratifying to be working with so many passionate people who care so much about the mission of making healthy food accessible and affordable to everybody.

You are one of several co-founders and you also share the title of Co-CEO with Nick Green. That is so cool. What happens when you disagree?
We disagree at times, but we are able to have healthy and positive disagreements! We are very oriented on getting it right “together,” rather than getting it right individually. That’s a very important cultural distinction in our management style that permeates the organization.

How do you avoid burnout?
Burnout? What’s that!? I’m always focused on getting sleep and exercise, which is difficult — and I really have to avoid all other extra social engagements or time with friends (which I miss since I’m a social creature). I am 100 percent focused on growing the business, staying healthy and spending time with my fiancée, Jennifer. It requires a lot of focus and willingness to say “no” to other things!

Do you miss living in Ojai?
I actually live in Ojai on the weekends. Jennifer and I have a home there. I miss being close to nature all the time — but it’s important to be in L.A., where there is a larger pool of talent for the company and partnerships to grow the business. In Ojai, I love hiking, napping and working on the hot springs project, Ecotopia, in Matilija Canyon, which continues to be consuming and rewarding. All the controversy around managing the hot springs project over the last four years has actually been more challenging in many ways then building Thrive! But it’s been deeply gratifying to see the sacred land in Matilija open again to people in a way that is safe and beautiful.

Anything else you’d like to add?
We must come together as a species and think proactively about the way we are going to design societal frameworks that create opportunities for everyone. One of the problems we face in the modern capitalistic framework is that the real costs of products are not often reflected in the prices we pay. There are hidden externalities. When we buy a phone, do we know what the labor practices are? When we buy meat, do we know if chemicals are leaching into the water supply? It’s important if we are going to pass a planet along to our children and grandchildren that we think much more longterm about what we are doing here and why we are doing it. We need to evolve our biological software beyond pure survival instincts to encompass a broader set of holistic values that reflects the understanding we live in a truly interconnected world. 

For more information on Thrive Market visit
For more information on Ecotopia go to


Jillian Michaels of The Biggest Loser fame speaks with Lovelace in Thrive’s Southern California warehouse. The celebrity wellness coach has praised the company, saying, “This is exactly what the people have been waiting for.”


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