Overall, MUD\WTR does not make the effort to be sustainable. They are a business; they operate to solve a problem (harmful coffee use patterns) that consumers have through their product. The average customer sees “organic” and that is enough for them. The ingredients used for this product are all plants (aside from salt) and have low environmental footprints. As I mentioned before, I am skeptical. Single product e-commerce brands, because they operate digitally, can avoid accountability. With a greater physical presence, such as being sold in stores, you risk scrutiny by regulatory agencies. But because they ship a product that is manufactured somewhere in Texas directly to a shopper’s door, they can bypass attention and regulation. For example, they give the disclaimer on the website that “these statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration”. As touched on before, they mention one supplier. This raises suspicion because if I was going out of my way to secure responsible sourcing, I would mention it. According to the USDA, a company will provide the certifier on the product label to indicate that it has been reviewed by a third party; to confirm or deny their organic claim, I would need to order the product and check to see if that information is on the label. Lastly, the USDA states that products that use the phrase “Made with organic” can not use the USDA’s seal (which is how MUD phrases their organic statement on their website). These are all red flags for me, and with the absence of sustainability information, I am led to believe that this is may not be a sustainable product. I have reached out to MUD to see if they can provide me with some of these missing pieces.
MUD\WTR is dubbed a “coffee alternative product” that contains the following nine ingredients: cacao, masala chai, turmeric, sea salt, cinnamon, chaga, cordyceps, reishi, lion’s mane. The website states that all ingredients are USDA Organic Certified. MUD does not provide any information regarding sourcing for their ingredients on their website, and opts instead for “The ingredients are sourced from the best suppliers on the planet from the Dominican Republic to India”. To me, this is not reassuring because in an industry like cocoa, labor justice is an important factor when evaluating a product’s sustainability. If I want to know that a company is doing their part in sourcing ethical cocoa, I want them to mention that they use Rainforest Alliance Certified Cocoa on their website. I am not trying to imply that they are doing something wrong, I just wish to hold them to a higher standard of accountability since they are an e-commerce brand. If their product is 100% organic because each ingredient really does come from a responsible supplier, I would give them three planets in this category because each ingredient on its own is not bad for the planet. What makes me so hesitant to confirm that they are organic and ethical is they list where their mushrooms come from: Om Organics in California. At face value, this is exactly what I want from them. But then they do not mention exactly where they get their other ingredients from and mention that they come from parts of the world where organic regulations are less strict. This is a subtle, yet important detail that inspires skepticism in me.
As mentioned before, there isn’t ample information regarding practices used to produce each ingredient. MUD’s website does mention that MUD is assembled at a facility in Texas. This means that each product is gathered and shipped from the supplier to the assembly plant in Texas. The greenhouse gas emissions produced by getting each ingredient to the facility in Texas increase the further away each ingredient has to travel. Not disclosing the sourcing of ingredients makes it difficult to estimate the sustainability of the product. Sourcing closer to Texas (i.e. U.S., Canada, Latin America) would improve the sustainability of this product, but sometimes this is not possible. In the case of ingredients such as masala chai, it is necessary to source from India. Sourcing from a company such as Amala Chai is something I, if I were a company’s founder, would disclose when talking about my ingredients. They are highly sustainable in that they get their spices from “small, sustainable farms who are socially conscious”, support family owned and organic farms, and use exclusively reusable and recyclable packaging. As a consumer, I want to know that these are the details companies are thinking of in order to help me live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. There is nothing noteworthy about the sustainability of their production process due to a lack of transparency.
MUD\WTR is an e-commerce brand based in Venice, CA. They focus on producing their plant-based coffee alternative and distribute the product via their website. Because they are an e-commerce brand, they do not focus too much about sustainability as their business is sourcing ingredients & putting them together. They do not have any green initiatives and do not disclose suppliers. From an operational standpoint, there is insufficient evidence for me to claim that they are a sustainable brand. They do mention on their website however that they donate monthly to MAPS. MAPS is the leading resource in the field of psychedelic medicine, they conduct research and provide public education on psychedelic compounds. I am noting this as sustainable and here is my train of thought: funding aids psychedelic research, research informs the public, the public can influence legislation, legislation such as decriminalization can improve life outcomes for minority communities and improve global mental health.
* MUD\WTR Website: https://mudwtr.com/
* Amala Chai → an example of a sustainable supplier: https://amalachai.com/blogs/chai-blog/spices-in-a-tropical-jungle
* Interview with the founder: https://medium.com/authority-magazine/shane-heath-of-mud-wtr-why-you-should-consider-doing-a-weekly-technology-and-food-fast-c0ae8309ce67
* Five steps to organic certification: https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2012/10/10/organic-101-five-steps-organic-certification
* MAPS donation: https://medium.com/@mudwtr/taking-a-stand-for-psychedelics-32371d8e2a44
* Drug Legalization and the minority poor: https://www.jstor.org/stable/3350103?origin=crossref&seq=1