Suspicions have arisen in recent headlines surrounding Sun Basket’s goods. The Council of Better Business-Bureaus-administered Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP) received a complaint on the San Francisco-based meal kit service in regards to its claim of being organic, when the products allegedly include nonorganic ingredients.
The complaint was filed in the middle of 2017, and asserts that the company uses false claims in regards to its products. When the claim was filed, the company’s website showcased the USDA Organic logo alongside the words, “Organic and non-GMO ingredients & delicious recipes delivered weekly.” However, while antibiotic and hormone-free, none of the meat was organic, according to BuzzFeed News. Further, some of the produce ingredients were not organic, as well. The challenger found that, when they ordered five meal kits, the amount of truly organic items by net weight amounted to an average of 35 percent, BuzzFeed reports.
“All organic ingredients are clearly labeled upon delivery," said the company’s website. In other words, without the label, the item is not certainly organic.
“We do take careful note of ‘green’ claims, including claims that products are organic, natural, compostable, biodegradable, etc., because it is very difficult for consumers to determine on their own the composition of a product and many consumers carefully consider those attributes before purchasing,” said Linda Bean with ERSP, an organization that tries to answer consumers’ and competitors’ inquiries before they head to federal regulators.
Some customers, however, have complained about Sun Basket’s inconsistent claims about its products, stating that it’s misleading in its marketing.
“We’re saying exactly what we are, and we’re really sticking to a brand standard that’s much higher than any of the other players,” said Sun Basket CEO Adam Zbar, emphasizing the company’s transparency in comparison with its competitors. He also stated that the company’s use of the USDA seal was approved by the CCOF, an organic certifying agency.
Because of this complaint, though, Sun Basket has moved the USDA seal so that it sits under its produce section, instead of its previously positioned homepage prominence. In addition to this, the company has stopped using absolute language in regards to its organic items, including the use of terms like “try Sun Basket organic meals,” “healthy organic meal delivery,” and “leading organic meal kit company.” Its marketing, too, has seen a revision, with “organic and sustainable” used instead of “organic and non-GMO,” in an effort to convey Sun Basket’s inclusion of both organic and non-organic ingredients that are sustainable.
Changes in language relaying the state of the company’s ingredients have been deemed inadequate by ERSP as of December.
To implement further change, the company also created a premium option, costing an extra $1 to $9, though this change is not a reflection of ERSP’s probe. However, this upgrade option cannot always be 100 percent organic, as there is no standard for organic seafood. But Zbar explained to BuzzFeed News that, at this point, Sun Basket is “99.9% organic,” and when there are no organic options available in the meal kit, they look to conventional as an alternative. Now the company includes information about any ingredient substitutions like this.
While Zbar chose not to disclose how many subscribers the company is currently servicing or what its retention rate is, Sun Basket recently announced $57.8 million in new funding.
Well, “organic or not organic?” seems to be the customer question looming overhead as the company pushes forward faced with struggling competitors like Blue Apron. How will this story evolve, and will the company’s newest funding assist in negating any tribulations moving forward? Deli Market News will keep you updated with the latest!