Back to the Roots launches in Walmart stores across America.
Back to the Roots
Back to the Roots—famous for their grow-your-own-kits— is going mainstream. This February, the Oakland-based company is launching kits in 2,300 Walmarts across the US.
“It’s really a watershed moment for making gardening exciting and accessible for millennials and generation Z,” says Alex Velez, co-founder of Back to the Roots. “It’s been quite the journey building this category since we started the company together in college, but we’ve never been more excited than we are today about the future and what 2020 represents.”
Over a decade ago, Velez and co-founder Nikhil Arora were growing mushrooms out of used coffee grinds while students at UC Berkeley. Experimenting in buckets, the duo tried a variety of combinations — one of them worked and they took the mushrooms to the famed Chez Panisse in Berkeley to get Alice Waters’ opinion. They got the thumbs up and the mushrooms were served at her restaurant.
From growing oyster mushrooms in buckets to now having raised $4 million for their company, they’ve expanded their offering in an effort to make gardening accessible to everyone. For each product purchased, another is also donated to schools or families where gardens are few and far between. That’s enabled them to donate 1,000,000 garden kits across the US in 2019, Arora says.
The gardening industry is to be estimated at $48 billion and growing. Back to the Roots is catering to those living in apartments, who have limited growing space, or are just starting out and not yet ready to build their own compost pile and veg beds. Instead, a window sill or any sunny spot will do.
With this disruption a new generation can now experience the process of growing their own food as they face the trends of urbanization and shrinking backyard spaces, says Arora. Additionally, this expansion demonstrates Back to the Roots’ success in increasing the accessibility and awareness that consumers have regarding organic gardening and sustainability, he adds.
“Gardening used to be about big backyards, putting who-knows-what chemicals into your garden, and having to figure it all out yourself with a green thumb,” he says. “But the future of gardening is different – it’s about organic, it’s about simplifying the experience with great product design, and it’s about millennials who are living in smaller spaces, but still want to grow.”
In fact, the company has been pushing for more sustainable farming, beyond just offering gardening kits. A few years ago, they developed a line of cereals made from California stone ground wheat; the cereal had three ingredients in it: organic wheat, organic sugar, and salt. In 2017, that got them contracts with New York City’s public school system, which is the largest public school system in the US.
Made of organic ingredients, and housed in a 100 percent recyclable box, the cereals were a deviation from what the market was offering. It was also an effort to connect consumers with their food, by sharing the farmers’ story and simplifying the ingredients.
Similarly, with the kits that are now available at Walmarts across the country, Velez says, “Our mission is to help every family in America experience that magic of growing their own food and learning about where it comes from.”
Walmart customers will get a new option, specific to the store: a self-watering fabric grow pot. In addition, there will be the line up of their existing products: microgreen grow kits, the mushroom grow kit, the windowsill tomato planter, and the windowsill lavender planter.
Back to the Roots hopes to double the number of its organic gardens planted this year and lead this cultural movement, Arora says.