Rachel Irons had always dreamt of creating a zero-waste grocery store. Last year, while refinishing a concrete floor in a Boulder commercial kitchen she managed, the idea came up again — one of the kitchens had extra room; why not turn it into just that?
By operating a grocery store as a single large bulk-foods section, the thinking went, the store could reduce waste by eliminating single-use containers and collecting unsold food from local farmers.
In early 2020, a team of four, Rachel Irons, Verity Noble, Jimmy Uvodich and Matt Arnold, came together to bring the vision, originally planning to open a physical store but quickly pivoting when Covid had other plans.
Launched with its first delivery on July 1, Nude Foods Market delivers food customers order online in mason jars and other reusable containers throughout Boulder. The market offers three categories of goods: dry goods (beans, seeds, oil, etc.), rescued produce — either just a bit misshapen but still good or farm overstock, and local bites and snacks — and non-edible products like cleaning supplies and body lotion.
Other bulk-foods grocers exist, such as Longmont’s Simply Bulk, but this one is the only one in Boulder proper.
Boulderites can choose products from the online shop, select a frequency, and either opt to get the items delivered for a $7 charge (if you live in Boulder) or pick them up at Nude Foods Market’s location at 555 30th Street on Wednesdays from 3 to 6 p.m. Deliveries happen each Wednesday; the delivery crew picks up any of its empty containers left outside for reuse.
The grocer offers a wide variety of staples, from rice to maple syrup to spices to figs to goji berries to eggs, bread, peanut butter and much more.
Nude Foods selections. Source: Nude Foods.
Sustainability, of course, typically comes at a premium. Also, the grocer’s smaller scale means prices may skew slightly higher. Customers pay a $0.50 sanitation fee for each container in their order. (Technically customers pay a deposit of $1.50 for each container, but get a dollar back for each container returned). When buyers subscribes to a specific item in two- or four-week increments, they get a 10 percent discount.
Comparing Nude Foods’ Prices (all prices include sanitation fee):
- Organic olive oil (16 ounces). Nude Foods: $8.90. King Soopers: $5.49.
- Granola (16 ounces): Nude Foods: $5.45. King Soopers: $4.39.
- Organic white Jasmine rice (32 ounces). Nude Foods: $4.65. King Soopers: $5.79.
The online shop also sells a variety of locally-made products like 100 gluten-free rye bread and vegan milk bread, as well as popcorn, Keto donuts, pasta and granola.
Connecting to local food
The market bridges the gap between local consumer-supported agriculture and traditional grocer.
Nude Foods Market strives to highlight local producers in addition to eliminating as much of the middleman as possible. In the summer, it sources its food all around Boulder with Kilt Farms, Longmont’s MetaCarbon Organic Farm and Matthews Farm as its primary suppliers. In the winter, it has to get more creative, sourcing from Denver’s hydroponic (vertically growing) farm, Altius Farms, and some others in Fort Collins and Colorado Springs.
By consolidating and eliminating the middleman and going directly to the producer, the food comes faster and fresher.
“Basically anything that’s packaged is going to be older,” says Rachel. “It was made in a factory and then packaged, then went to a distribution center and then probably another one before going to a store where it sat on the shelf for a couple of weeks first.”
Since it began, the company has grown its supply rosters to 20 local companies and six local farms, and part of the appeal could lay in connecting to local companies you may not have heard of, other than through Nude Foods Market.
Nude Foods makes all of its deliveries with converted trailers hooked onto bikes and also offers a volunteer bike program so people can come do a bike route (about two hours) and get a box of produce in exchange.
Currently, the grocer feeds about 60 families in the region.
“We would love to expand Nude Foods far and wide!” Rachel says. “More zero-waste options in more places means less plastic in landfills, less CO2 in the air and a healthier food system for all of us. With an expanded reach and more buying power, we would also be able to push producers towards more sustainable practices and away from packaging.”
Header Image: Nude Foods Market’s founders, Verity Noble, Rachel Irons, Jimmy Uvodich and Matt Arnold. Image: Nude Foods Market.