When you traverse the aisles of your local grocery store or scroll through their offerings online, you may not think about who is behind the innumerable brands available to choose from. Usually, we trust when a package looks homespun, it’s made by culinary artisans on a small scale. Despite grade-school lessons about books and their covers, packaging often makes a difference in what we buy—no matter how much we try to be objective. Those looks, as we’re also taught, are frequently deceiving.
Like most industries, even the "artisanal" food brands are commonly owned by big companies. Most organic brands, no matter how indie they appear, are owned by multinational corporations. And it shouldn’t be surprising most of America’s businesses are run by cis white men—meaning the bulk of those artisanal products are directly lining the pockets of the rich and privileged. While you may be supporting indigenous farmers to some small extent, the bulk of your money spent is probably making rich men richer.
In 2020, businesses began publicly pledging to do better with the representation of marginalized communities and the goods they produce. Fueled by the rise in anti-racism, we began seeing more people of color in ads, more inclusive language around gender, and more diversity in the marketplace. However, showing more diversity doesn't innately translate to marginalized communities getting more opportunities to conduct business. In order for a culture to actually shift and change, there must be more space created for members of those communities alongside the dominant demographics.
That’s where Bubble Goods enters the picture. A culinary shopping website dedicated to sustainable foods, cultural representation, and eco-friendly packaging, Bubble has a broader spectrum of Black-owned and women-owned food brands than I, a dedicated grocery aficionado, have ever seen in one place. Some brands, such as Groundwork Coffee, I know and love, but most were entirely unfamiliar.
Bubble claims to be "the most transparent food marketplace," and one look at their site makes it clear this claim isn’t a baseless one. The shopping site was founded by Jessica Young. She was formerly a founding team member of HU Kitchen in New York City, and she also led product development and operations for Daily Harvest. She left Daily Harvest to start Bubble, and took both high ingredient standards and strong culinary inventiveness with her: All items on the site have undergone a rigorous four-step approval process. Ingredients must be natural and unrefined, taste must pass muster, the brand has to be a "game changer" in their field, and food makers must have safe, sustainable, and ethical production practices.
About her site, Jessica says, "At Bubble, we’re creating a platform that aims to disrupt a stale food industry. Large corporations have long been calling the shots and lacking transparency while doing so. Bubble is an inclusive marketplace that uses its platform to amplify the diverse products and voices in food. Over the summer, we pledged to fill at least 15% of our virtual space to Black-owned brands. Currently we have over 25% BIPOC-owned brands and 57% of our marketplace is women-owned. Food is drastically changing, and so are the main people making it and leading the change."
With over 350 brands on the site, one might presume it would be difficult to find products made by people from marginalized communities. Thanks to Bubble’s setup, that isn't the case at all: You can search for demographics like AAPI or Black food producers as easily as you can for keto snacks, vegan sauces, or pet food. I was able to try a range of the offerings on the site, and I was particularly grateful Bubble gave a bigger platform to the brand stories that felt especially important.
The Stand-Out Food Brands
Moonshot Climate Friendly Crackers are made with “stone-milled, regeneratively-grown Edison wheat" and available in three flavors. The brand founded by Julia Collins, a Black woman, is carbon neutral as well as Kosher. Edison wheat is a single variety crop that was bred for the climate of the Pacific Northwest. It’s grown and milled in Oregon, and due to the slow milling process, retains more nutrients than other white wheat flour. Beyond their climate friendly ingredients and production, Julia Collins educates other companies about how to do better for the environment through her platform Planet FWD.
For chocolate fans—and really, who isn’t a chocolate fan?—POC-owned Elements Truffles utilize Ayurvedic ingredients like turmeric and ginger in their dark chocolate bars. Founded by a former Wall Street trader, the brand's initial goal was "to create a line of chocolates that are not only healthy and tasty but also integrated this beautiful science that focuses on bringing balance and simplicity in lifestyle." Elements donates 25% of profits to "supporting the wholesome education of underprivileged children in tribal areas of India."
The Home and Body Goods
In addition to food, Bubble carries vitamins, supplements, and home and body goods. Adaptogens are a particularly risky set of ingredients when it comes to sustainable and ethical sourcing. WOC-founded Peak And Valley makes adaptogen blends in glass containers and rely on sustainable farming practices. Founder and CEO Nadine Joseph is a neuroscientist, ensuring an effective quantity of each ingredient in their products.
The Shipping Practices
Because Bubble is a commerce site and not a warehouse, when you order multiple brands together you’ll notice that the items ship separately. Expect a shipment for each company you order from, and a separate shipment notification for each. My experience was that all companies shipped quickly, within a day or two of my order, and arrived within the week.
The Bottom Line
There’s truly something for everyone on Bubble. Whether you’re looking for a gift, stocking your pantry, or searching for a natural hand sanitizer, you have an opportunity to support sustainable goods made by people who wouldn't otherwise have found a large platform. And perusing food online, a fun task to begin with, feels even better when you’re supporting diversity, climate protection, and independent businesses.
Ahmed R, Parmar V, Amin M. Impact of product packaging on consumer’s buying behavior. European Journal of Scientific Research. 2014;120(2).
Pacifici S. The Organic Watergate. Cornucopia Institute; 2012.
Bureau UC. ABS release provides data on minority and women-owned businesses. The United States Census Bureau. Published May 19, 2020.