Some could say the stars aligned for Michael Ferchak to one day co-found a sustainable product company. Long before he became an engineer, he was raised on a Pennsylvania farm by hippie, Quaker parents with the ideals of a simple, more eco-friendly lifestyle.
“My dad was teaching classes on alternative energies at UPenn in the late ’70s,” Ferchak recalls. “He was talking about sustainability and appropriate technology from the time I was a young boy. So that combined with the simplicity and austerity of the Quaker community all just led to this and it makes sense that I wound up where I am now.”
Where he wound up is the COO of Public Goods, a membership-based online home goods store, which he co-founded with business partner Morgan Hirsch in 2016. The company has become just as well-known for its minimalistic design as it has for its sustainably-minded practices, packaging, and products.
“For us, we’re not just jumping on the bandwagon of some eco-friendly trend,” Ferchak says. “We started our company with sustainability at its heart. The first products we launched included biodegradables, plastics made of sugarcane, and bamboo toothbrushes.”Beyond packaging, the company also donates money to Eden Reforestation Projects for every product purchased. Plus, its entire business model was founded on the idea of streamlining the supply chain (which might be more relevant today than ever), by sourcing factories without a product development company or agency and keeping its product lines-like its design-minimal.
“Whereas another brand might have six or seven different variations of their shampoo for every perceived hair type, we have one,” Ferchack says. “That makes it easier for us when it comes to inventory planning, reordering, and reducing the demand on high-inventory levels.”
In 2019, the company took its membership-based, sustainably streamlined model and expanded into grocery products. While a lot of people still associate the company with toiletries and cleaners, Ferchak says that food and drink products now account for 30% of its revenue.Public Goods got their customers’ input involved from the beginning, contacting them directly and sending out surveys asking what food products they’d like to see in the shop. The result was pantry essentials like spices, gluten-free pasta, oatmeal, wine, coffee, soup kits, ramen packets, hot sauces, and baking essentials like flour and sugar. Other unique items came from trade shows or word-of-mouth, like the popular garlic & herb banana chips.
“We wanted to focus on a lot of the staples first, but we know you’re never truly going to be able to meet all of your needs if we don’t cover basically the entire supermarket,” he says. “So the next step for us is talking to produce vendors to offer fresh fruits and vegetables and then we can think about dairy and frozen fish and meat. We really do want to be a comprehensive self-shopping destination.”Of course, Ferchak admits the timing of adding grocery to the Public Goods portfolio was a bit fortuitous. Largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, online consumer packaged goods (CPG) sales in the U.S. increased $63 billion from 2019 to 2020, the same year that 22 billion American bought online groceries for the first time.
Additionally, many restauraneurs struggled with decreased business from in-person dining and pivoted to selling CPG products. In fact, David Chang’s Momofuku noodle line is made in the same factory as Public Goods’ ramen.
“I’m pretty sure they tweaked the sauces a bit,” he says, with a laugh. “But yeah, it’s a huge validation that we’re in the right space. Beyond that, our customer doesn’t have to buy their ramen at one place and their skincare at another. We’re giving them that one-stop shop, minimalist approach that gives them convenience and peace of mind.”
It’s a model that works for Ferchak’s family, too, who uses candied pecans and pumpkin seeds on salad, keeps seaweed snacks by the bed, and dips almond cantuccini in their morning coffee.The brand is always looking to expand and improve, whether it’s adding produce or more global products to its lines, or realizing that using recycled plastic is actually a better way to reduce it from the existing stream rather than creating new materials.
“We’re always looking for more reusable, refillable packaging,” he says. “Every step we take, we ask how we can be more sustainable than the status quo.”Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.
The cold weather in most parts of Australia coinciding with EOFY celebrations is the closest thing that we’ll get to snowy Christmas vibes. And if you’re in dire need of some festive cheer after the first six months of 2023, grab your ugly sweater and head to your nearest Red Rooster for Xmas in July deals.
From June 29 – July 31, 2023, Red Rooster is serving up free food items, a chance to win $10,000 or one of 10 merch packs valued at $400 and other fun prizes. All you have to do is sign up as a Red Royalty member and spend $5 on at a location near you or online.
Each week there’ll be new delicious deals and prizes to win. The week one deals have already dropped and they’re looking pretty tasty. You can get access to them via your Red Royalty account. The more you purchase, the more chances you have to win.
Spoiler alert: you can get 10 chicken nuggets for free, right now. Brb running to Red Rooster.