Sunday , 26 June 2016

Shelf Reliance Review – Now Thrive Life

There are many interesting things we have learned in the process of conducting our Shelf Reliance review (name now changed to Thrive Life). While most will recognize them as an emergency preparedness and food storage provider, there are other unique characteristics that set them apart from most others. Shelf Reliance (Thrive Life) has been in business for almost 8 years (first three years making rotation shelves) though they made a drastic change in 2009 when they shifted to a direct selling/MLM business model unlike any other in the preparedness industry.

Aside from selling food storage and emergency preparedness items, Shelf Reliance (Thrive Life) is the leading food storage shelving manufacturer with their Food Rotation Systems under the brands: Shelf Reliance and FIFO. The business got started in 2004, making food storage racks and a few years later went into the business of filling them by creating their own food brand THRIVE.

As we briefly mentioned earlier, Shelf Reliance/Thrive Life differs from its competitors in that they are a Multi-Level Marketer (MLM). The goal of the direct selling approach is to hire interdependent contracted workers (called consultants in this case). They are required to buy product monthly and recruit consultants to sell under them. They are incentivised to to build the pyramid below them by recieving a percentage of sales of people in their downline, the term for people beneath you. The bigger the more layers under you will translate to larger profits for the consultants at the highest levels.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

First and foremost we look at customer service when evaluating a company since a company is as only good as the way they treat their customers. Over the past 2 1/2 years we have ordered from Shelf Reliance (through website, not through consultants) on numerous occasions and have had good experiences working with their customer service team. There are a variety of ways to contact them such as email, phone, and a super useful online chat feature. Hold times were often short and the people were kind and informative.

While our purchases have not required a return, we feel good that we will be taken care of if a return is needed since their return policy is fair.

PRICING

Something that was apparent during our Shelf Reliance Review was that they have pretty competitive prices. They are pretty close to the low price leaders on most products and often have very good prices on their food storage racks, but due to additional costs that add up they are often more expensive than others (we’ll describe below).

Sales and promotions are one of several components of pricing. Shelf Reliance/Thrive Life has monthly sales which every once in a while can help you save significant money. More often than not though the sales don’t come with big markdowns, which is a result of their unique business model  that requires them to pay multiple layers of consultant commissions which means there isn’t a lot of margin left for them to discount product. Usually MLM companies sell products with super high margins (think 12 times the cost of the product) like exotic super healing fruit drinks but food storage is a competitive landscape with far more sensible shoppers so they can’t over charge for product (it wouldn’t sell). So in the end there isn’t a lot of wiggle room on discounting.

The next component of pricing that we will cover is shipping. Food storage shipping costs can add up in a hurry so it is nice to have low rates like Shelf Reliance/Thrive Life does. While it’s not easy to remember like a flat rate system, the tier pricing on their shipping rates is competitive:

Subtotal – Shipping
$0-$70.00 = $6.99 shipping rate
$70.01-$130.00 = $9.99 shipping
$130.01-$190.00 = $12.99 shipping rate
$190.01-$399.99 = $19.99 shipping
$400.00+ 5% of order subtotal = shipping

Our biggest gripe with their shipping system is when ordering over $400 worth of product. While other companies give free shipping or charge around $10 on larger orders, Shelf Reliance/Thrive Life goes in the opposite direction and charges much more. For example, a Supreme 1 Year Freeze-Dried & Dehydrated Food Supply would cost almost $200 to ship while competitor’s kits of the same cost would charge about a $10 fee or ship it for free.

The last component that we will cover is tax. The vast majority of food storage companies operate in one state and as a result are only required to charge taxes to residents of that state, but Shelf Reliance/Thrive Life has a presence (consultants) in every state and as a result are required to charge sales tax on all orders (except states like as Montana and Alaska where they have no sales tax), but states like California or Texas you will be charged up to an additional 7.25% on your order.

Even though prices can get a little high with orders from Shelf Reliance/Thrive Life, there is a way you can save money with them and that is by becoming a Shelf Reliance/Thrive Life consultant. Consultants get discounted products. Of course you must factor in that you are required to buy at least $50 of product each month and spend $200 on a starter kit which we didn’t want to but you may feel differently.

FOOD STORAGE 

Shelf Reliance/Thrive Life carries one brand of food storage, THRIVE, which is their in house brand. THRIVE consists of dehydrated and freeze-dried items but for the most part does not focus on ready-to- eat complete meals. We would have preferred to see another brand like Mountain House to help round out their small selection of ready-to-eat just-add-water meals.

Within the THRIVE brand they do have an excellent selection to chose from. Some items you won’t see very many other places like Quinoa (maybe Julie knows what that is?). With the THRIVE brand you also get a wide variety of packaging options such as pouches, #10 cans, and often 6 gallon buckets. The pouches are nice as they are less expensive and allow you to test product without committing to large purchases.

Aside from those items, the #10 cans come in a variety of configurations such as 6 Packs (a variety of 6 cans in a box) as well as 3, 6, and 12 month configurations where you can save money from when buying in bulk. We have noticed good deals from Costco’s website from time to time on those items. It is our understanding that consultants cannot beat Costco’s price so buying from them is a great option especially since you get Costco’s fabulous warranty on the product.

Another interesting fact we uncovered during our Shelf Reliance/Thrive Life review was that their American Fork headquarters/canning facility is USDA approved. Most food storage companies when buying real meat need to buy pre-canned meat products from other suppliers which adds an extra layer.  The result of cutting out one more middle man means they often have very good freeze-dried meat prices. While they have had meat safety issues [video] in the past a fair amount of time has passed so you should feel safe ordering Thrive meats.

In conclusion, the food storage options and selection is very good. You can spend a lot of time looking at all of the different foods and there are a variety of packaging options to meet your needs.

PRODUCT SELECTION 

Outside of your typical food storage products mentioned above, Shelf Reliance/Thrive Life also has started to carry a small selection of MREs, water storage, 72 hour kits, and emergency supplies. While it does not offer the variety as many of their competitors, they have competitive prices which is a plus so if they happen to carry it you should get a good price on it. Hopefully over time they will beef up their options in this area and we can update our Shelf Reliance review.

PRODUCT QUALITY 

We have tried several of the food items at their new American Fork corporate offices (nice building!) as we are also fortunate enough to live nearby. All of the items tasted very good and typical of the rest of their competition.

Our biggest issue though was that we found out via the internet, then through contacting the customer service team, that they bring in some products from China. For us that simply isn’t acceptable. With a history of poor regulation and sickness coming from bad food we avoid China food storage products like we do China food at the grocery store.

Carrying food grown in China is bad in our opinion but trying to hide it and cover it up is another thing that is frustrating. Chatting with customer service about it they responded with long winded political talk that did everything but answer the question. Eventually after asking the question 4 different ways we were able to get them to admit to what we had read elsewhere on the internet.

Also if you visit their FAQ section, you will see a question posed: “Where do THRIVE fruits and vegetables come from?” with the following answer: “Our products are all processed and packaged in the US under FDA and USDA regulation.” This is clearly worded in a way to make you think it is from the United States. The only thing they are saying is it is handled and canned in the US, they conveniently ignore their own question of “Where do XX come from?” For this reason we are giving them a poor score on product quality. NOTE: For those that are not bothered by Chinese food the score would probably be in the 9 points range.

*UPDATE: 10/11/2012: One of the owners of Shelf Reliance/Thrive Life has reached out requesting we remove the statements about the origin of some of the Thrive branded food they sell. They sent us this Thrive Country of Origin document for each individual item they carry. They did not answer questions we posed asking for clarity so we will leave it up to the reader to take our experience and what Shelf Reliance/Thrive Life is now claiming in this document to make your own decision.*

WEBSITE 

Shelf Reliance’s website is one of the best out there. The home page has the main categories along the top in easy to read tabs, when hovered over, sub-categories appear and you can jump into a variety of more specific product categories very quickly. No matter where you are on the site this navigation bar maintains that position, so it is easy to get out and start over again.

Shelf Reliance Review

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Once you click through to a product of interest you get to a product page. Shelf Reliance’s product pages are near the top in the food storage industry. Great deal of information, specs, customer reviews, additional photos, and recipe videos. They do a great job by consolidating the ability to buy all of the different packaging sizes from one page. You can order pouches, cans, and buckets all from the same page which is a great way to display the product.

Shelf Reliance Review

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Aside from the normal browsing on the site, there is a great working search capability on the top right of all pages. When you start typing the product of interest it start auto-suggesting products and it does a great job. It can get a little overzealous by showing you way too many choices but more often than not it does a great job.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Shelf Reliance (now called Thrive Life) is the recipe king/queen of the food storage industry. While many have written recipes and sell recipe books, Shelf Reliance has filmed over 200 videos (the most of any of the companies we have seen). Found either on product pages or at the Shelf Reliance YouTube channel, the recipe videos are top notch and provide great tips. If you are interested in becoming a Thrive Life consultant they also have numerous recruitment videos to help you get excited about that too.

Besides the great videos, Thrive Life (formerly known as Shelf Reliance) has a blog which can be rather sporadic in its content delivery consistency  meaning how often blog posts are put up. There have been periods of inactivity of over 6-7 months at times but when they do post they are often insightful and worth checking out.

The Shelf Reliance/Thrive Life Facebook page is appears to just be starting off and hopefully some giveaways and interaction takes place there as it is a good way to get to talk to other preparedness minded people.

OVERALL SCORE

Shelf Reliance, now called Thrive Life is a very solid food storage company, one of the newer ones we have reviewed thus far so maybe still working out some of the kinks that will help put them in the top echelon of the industry. If it weren’t for some issues with pricing and product sourcing we think they would be fighting it out with the top companies.

If you are looking for food storage recipes, some nice quality rotation shelves, or are interested in trying to make the big bucks selling food storage you are in the right place! Thanks for checking out our Shelf Reliance review!

Visit Shelf Reliance Now

 

There are many interesting things we have learned in the process of conducting our Shelf Reliance review (name now changed to Thrive Life). While most will recognize them as an emergency preparedness and food storage provider, there are other unique characteristics that set them apart from most others. Shelf Reliance (Thrive Life) has been in business for almost 8 years (first three years making rotation shelves) though they made a drastic change in 2009 when they shifted to a direct selling/MLM business model unlike any other in the preparedness industry. Aside from selling food storage and emergency preparedness items, Shelf Reliance (Thrive Life)…

Thrive Life Review Score

Customer Service - 100%
Pricing - 65%
Food Storage - 90%
Product Selection - 75%
Product Quality - 40%
Website - 100%
Additional Rresources - 80%

79%

Not Bad

Better than a lot of alternatives but still not as good as the couple top companies. Would be a decent option if you want to work at an MLM.

User Rating: 3.5 ( 1 votes)

13 comments

  1. Good information, there are so many food storage companies that it can some time be difficult to know much about any of them.

    Thanks for the resourceful site and keep the reviews coming!

  2. Might want to revisit this and update with current information. Shelf Reliance no longer has food coming from China. They also now document where the foods are coming from so you can check it out for yourself.

    Also, there was no mention of the fact that Shelf Reliance is one of the only companies that has certified non-GMO products–a really important fact considering how much food in the produce section of our very own neighborhood grocery stores has been genetically modified.

  3. @ Holly, thanks for the heads up. I’ll have to check back with them and update it when I can confirm it.

  4. Holly, spent 20 minutes on their site tonight looking for details on country of origin for the food products. They are not showing up on the product pages. Is there somewhere else to look or do I have to go to a party to get that information?

  5. I looked at the pdf for the origin of food for Thrive that you posted as an update in October. My question would be how do we know that the food didn’t originate in China but is being sold to Thrive from another country? I’m like you, I don’t trust food from China. Period. Any ideas how we can know the truth about where the food originates?

  6. I really like the information Shelf Life provided in the Product Detail document (pdf). Some of the top rated sites aren’t providing that kind of information.

    What I’d like to see reviewed is the packaging for shelf life.

    Wish the website calculated a unit cost to make it easier to compare cost.

    • Good feedback Jake, I think companies want to give that transparency but I’m guessing they also have to worry about giving competitors too much information. As for shelf life analysis I think that would be something we can add to our reviews… though almost all companies these days are using the same processes and products. There are some like Wise Foods that don’t though (they nitrogen flush their food still and in some cases don’t use 02 absorbers).

  7. I’ve checked out the Product Detail document and am absolutely amazed. I like knowing where the product originates from. They also disclose the allergen report and if the product is Certified Gluten Free, Certified Organic and GMO free. I haven’t found another company that simply offers that information to the public — not without a fight or a court order. I like that they have the pouch, pantry size can, # 10 can, and the buckets of product. They also disclosed the serving size and the shelf life of the cans opened and unopened. I don’t see where they have transparency issues. I checked on the milk and they have no added hormones – I’ve tried the milk and it was great. I received a #10 can and there was a dent in it, I phoned their customer service and they replaced it immediately. They were awesome. As for the unit cost, it depends on the size of the product that you purchase and that wasn’t difficult to figure out. On the items that I checked, they were less expensive than two other competitors (I also checked the serving size — their competitors serving size was smaller). I checked the food label on the Wise Food that I tried and the Beef Stroganoff and a couple others (there was no meat in them, they were soy product), talk about transparency — it should have been Beef Stroganoff Like. The serving size on some of their product was 13g — there are 100g in 1 cup. Thier serving size was a little over 1/10th of a cup with 8 servings per package. Buy what you want; however, I am impressed with the Shelf Reliance Product, the information they provide to their customers, and I liked that I was able to go to a food demonstration and was able to taste some of the product before I spent my hard earned money on it. Wow, what a bouns.

    • I agree the document is thorough, my only worry is how accurate it is. I wont get into detail here but there are several other details on top of those I’ve published on my site that leads me to be skeptical of their claims as to country of origin and a few other details. Aside from the experiences I had first hand and noted in the review above, I’ve heard too many questionable things from ex-employees, employees of competitors, and ex-Shelf Reliance consultants for me to feel comfortable retracting what I shared above in my review above.

      In the end I did what I think is most fair. I’ve shared some bits of information that lead to my skepticism of some of their claims along with what Shelf Reliance has stated on the matter and let the reader decide on their own what they believe to be true. Seems reasonable to me.

  8. Great food but a terrible company to work for. I was a consultant for about three years. Right off the bat, the woman who signed me up blatantly lied to me about the process. She said I would get support materials for events ahead of time. Total BS. And she said I could sell other products at my vendor booth. More BS. Questions I’ve had don’t get answered. Support for being a consultant is hit or miss. In my case it was a big miss! I had to figure things out on my own because my upline doesn’t help. I tried to be moved to be under a different consultant but they make the process impossible. I couldn’t be moved unless I had the permission of the woman who signed me up and of course she wasn’t going to let me go because my sales meant more money for her. And let me tell you, other consultants can be mean and ruthless. I had one woman yell at me for having parties in “her territory”. As far as I know, we aren’t assigned territories so more than one consultant in the same town is supposed to be okay. Through my website I’ve gotten a glut of prank emails, some of them obscene and disturbing. And since my phone number is also posted on the website I’ve been subjected to harassing phone calls as well. Customer Service at Shelf Reliance refuses to tell me the URL of the person sending the harassing messages through their site. My bet is that it’s the crazy Thrive consultant but I can’t go to the police and press charges if I don’t have proof. Since the messages go through Shelf Reliance I think they would have information on where the threats are coming from but they won’t take action to help me. Shelf Reliance doesn’t care about the safety of its consultants. You are there to make money for them.

  9. Hi, I need help. I am looking for a non-GMO and/or organic type freeze-dried or prepper food. I thought Thrive was it – especially when they mentioned gluten-free – that is until I read in your article that some foods come from China. None of the companies I have inquired with will even answer me. It’s great to be able to “survive” in an emergency; but we (me) will eventually get sick if the foods are not pure. Do you know of any companies that fit my criteria? Thanks, Sandee

    • Sandee,

      The problem is this is already a very niche industry in the first place. That is partly why you don’t see a lot of certified organic, non-GMO, gluten free, ect. I have seen some companies introduce products like these only to see them removed from their sites a few months later. Fact is there are not enough paying for it to justify the expense and risk for these companies. If the demand was there you would surely see products out there. Here’s to hoping that changes as the industry matures.

      Thanks for dropping by the site.

  10. I have decided to close comments on this page. I have presented my thoughts based on my experiences and you can take them for what it’s worth to you. I have relayed the message that Shelf Reliance, now Thrive Life, has communicated to me so people can make what they want from it all.

    Moderating comments is starting to get out of control, this site is a hobby site for us. My wife and I do it when we have time and I don’t appreciate some of the more mean spirited comments being sent from Self Reliance consultants. I have purposely taken several out of them off the page after as I was able to confirm that they are employees of the company.

    Note to Shelf Reliance consultants: when leaving mean comments on the internet you might want to use an email and name that is not associated with Shelf Reliace. A quick Google search of either your email (required to leave a comment on my site) or name quickly brings up your consultant pages or other pages (linkedin, blogs, ect).