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Groceries gone naked

A package-free, zero-waste grocery store gets ready to make its debut

Imagine an old-fashioned kind of grocery shopping. You know, Little House on the Prairie style, where you walk in carrying burlap bags and mason jars to buy flour, sugar or milk. Well, citizens of Austin, Texas, will soon be able to get that experience when “In.gredients” opens this summer.

Dubbed as the first package-free, zero-waste grocery store in America, most everything in the 1,400 square foot space will be sold stripped, in bulk form.

“There is a strong market interest in sustainability among consumers,” says co- founder Christian Lane, whose concept aims to eliminate food-related waste. “We researched a business model, and decided to test out with seed funding.”

Austin may be an ideal test market, given that other innovative grocers such as Whole Foods got their start in the mid-size Texas city, known for the especially laid-back attitude of its residents.

In.gredients is set up much like conventional stores, with fresh and cold foods around the periphery. The middle section will feature aisles of bulk ingredients, from spices to teas to dried pasta, in large bins.

The key difference is that shoppers are expected to bring their own containers. Those jars and Tupperware bowls will get weighed first. Shoppers fill these with ingredients and once at the checkout, the weight of the containers gets subtracted from the purchase price. Even the local beers will be sold from a keg.

To emphasize its green bona fides further, In.gredients will source only local and in-season products. “The stock will be constantly changing, and once something goes, it will be gone.”

Operationally, Lane expects higher overhead because the In.gredients model requires establishing relationships with a lot of small producers, whereas conventional grocers can rely on just a few large distributors.

Not everything will be available sans packaging, of course. Meat, for instance, will be sold individually wrapped in plastic in the freezer aisle.

But Lane thinks In.gredients’ approach will catch on. “We expect to grow by word of mouth, but we also aim to educate customers about the benefit of local and sustainable foods through social media and volunteering in community events.”

And while In.gredients will not likely threaten Austin’s larger chains in the near future, it may just become the place that some consumers shop for their basics.

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