A Glossary of Brandless Labels and What They Mean

A Glossary to Brandless Labels | Brandless Blog

At Brandless, we are transparent about what’s in our products, and what’s not. Here’s a glossary to help you understand every word on your Brandless product labels, because we’re proud of them all.

100% Arabica or Made with 100% Arabica Coffee or 100% Arabica Coffee: Coffee made entirely from arabica coffee beans, which are considered the highest quality, best-tasting coffee. Compared to the other major coffee variety (called robusta), arabica beans have been described as sweeter and more complex.

100% Blue Corn: Products made with 100 percent blue corn contain only corn from a naturally blue variety, which was originally grown by the Hopi in the Southwestern United States.

100% Cotton: Made from 100 percent cotton, a soft, highly absorbent natural fiber.

100% EVOO: 100 percent extra virgin olive oil, which is considered the highest-quality, best-tasting olive oil.

100% Organic Cotton: Made from 100 percent organic cotton, certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). (See organic for more on how products get certified.)

100% Sustainable: 100% sustainable seafood products contain only seafood fished or farmed so as to have minimal impact on the species and the ocean itself.

100% Whole Grain or Whole Grain: 100% whole grain foods are made only with flour that contains the entire grain—including the endosperm, germ, and bran. Refined flours usually only include the endosperm. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), whole grain food benefits include heart health and is linked to good digestion and a healthy weight. Look for the word “whole” in front of the first ingredient on the label, or the 100% Whole Grains Food Council stamp.

100% Whole Grain Corn: 100% whole grain corn describes corn products that include the entire kernel (including popcorn!) for maximum nutritional benefits. Look for the words “whole corn” on labels and avoid the word “degerminated.”

100% Yellow Corn: Made with 100 percent yellow corn.

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Amber Color:  “Amber color” maple syrup is part of an official USDA classification standard, “Grade A: amber color and rich in taste.” In 2015, the U.S. changed its grading for maple syrups from 2 levels of A, one B, and one C (which was only available commercially) to reflect that all four grades were very good and the only differences were in color and taste profile. Grade A: amber color and rich in taste was formerly called Grade A Medium/Dark Amber.

Anti Plaque: Anti-plaque products are used to prevent plaque from forming on your teeth. Plaque is a film of bacteria that sticks to your teeth, and it’s one of the causes of gum disease and tooth decay if it isn’t removed regularly.

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Biodegradable: Biodegradable material can be broken down by microorganisms into their component parts. For waste products like packaging, the Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guides state that the entire product or package must completely break down within one year for solid products to be called biodegradable.

Brandless: Brandless is a group of thinkers, eaters, doers, and lovers of life with big dreams about changing the world. Our mission is deeply rooted in quality, transparency, and community-driven values. Better stuff, fewer dollars. It’s that simple.

BrandTax Free™: BrandTax™ is the hidden costs you pay for a national brand. We’ve been trained to believe these costs increase quality, but they rarely do. We estimate the average person pays at least 40% more for products of comparable quality as ours. And sometimes up to 370% more for beauty products like hand cream. We’re here to eliminate BrandTax once and for all.

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Cheese from cows not treated with rBST: Recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST), or artificial growth hormone, is a biosynthesized version of a growth hormone called BST, which naturally occurs in cows. rBST is made using recombinant DNA technology, aka molecular cloning. This makes it a genetically modified organism, or GMO. rBST is given to cows to make them produce more milk. The use of rBST can be damaging to cows, but it’s not clear if it’s harmful to humans. It is legal in the United States, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the World Health Organization, and the National Institutes of Health have all stated that dairy products and meat from BST-treated cows are safe for humans to eat and drink. However, many countries, including Argentina, Australia, Canada, the E.U., Israel, Japan, and New Zealand, have banned rBST from the market.

Chlorine Free: Chlorine-free products come in two categories. “Totally chlorine-free” (TCF) products are made using bleaching that doesn’t contain any kind of chlorine. “Elemental chlorine-free” (ECF) products were bleached with a chlorine derivative, but not elemental chlorine, which can cause cancer.

Cholesterol Free or Cholesterol Free Food: The FDA defines cholesterol free food as containing less than 2 milligrams of cholesterol and no more than 2 grams of saturated fat per serving. We naturally produce cholesterol as a bodily function,. High cholesterol is linked to heart disease.

Cold Milled: Cold milling is a process for grinding flaxseed that never exposes it to any heat in order to retain maximum nutrients. Ground flaxseed is easier to digest than whole flaxseed, and cold-milled flaxseed tends to last longer than traditionally ground flaxseed. Flaxseed is shown to lower cholesterol. It’s nutrient-rich, high in omega-3 fatty acids, and studies also suggest it may help protect the body from cancer.

Cold Pressed: The cold pressing process extracts oil or juice by crushing the plant without using heat. In olive oil, cold pressing produces higher quality oil with better flavor and the least amount of degradation. Olive oil is linked to a healthy heart.

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Dairy Free: Dairy free products should not contain milk, or products made from or containing milk, such as butter, cheese, whey, or the derivate casein. The FDA does not regulate the term “dairy free,” so make sure to read the label.

Dark Roast: Dark roast coffee has a bitter and sometimes smoky flavor. To get to dark roast, raw coffee beans are exposed to heat for more time, which gives it an oily sheen. Dark roast coffee has less acidity, less “fruitiness,” and often less caffeine than medium or light roast coffee. Common names of dark roasts include French roast, Italian roast, and Vienna roast.

Deodorizes: Deodorizing products remove odors, such as from your toilet bowl.

Dishwasher Safe: Dishwasher safe products can be washed in the dishwasher without melting, degrading, or eroding.

Dolphin Safe: Tuna labeled “dolphin safe” must not be harvested by any of the means of fishing described in the U.S. Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act. These include driftnet fishing on the high seas, as well as other fishery conditions in which yellowfin tuna commonly swim with dolphins and are likely to be killed or seriously injured due to net fishing.

Dye Free: Dye free food, medicine, personal care items, and other products contain no added colors or dyes.

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EPA Safer Choice Certified: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Safer Choice label, previously known as the Design for the Environment (DfE) label, helps buyers find products that contain safer chemical ingredients. The EPA has rigorous criteria for the chemicals it identifies as having better effects on the environment and on human health than other chemicals, and the products it certifies must also meet high standards for performance.

Excellent Source Of: To claim a food is an excellent source of a particular nutrient, the FDA requires it to contain 20 percent or more of the daily value (DV or DRV) of the nutrient per RACC (reference amount customarily consumed), which is usually labeled a serving.

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Fair Trade: Fair trade describes a movement to promote better and safer economic and environmental conditions for the makers of products exported from developing countries. These products include coffee, sugar, wine, chocolate, flowers, fruit, gold, and artisanal crafts. Products with the Fair Trade Certified label were deemed by Fair Trade USA, a nonprofit third-party certifier, to meet high standards for fair pricing, labor conditions, direct trade, transparent and democratic organizations, investment in community, and environmental sustainability.

Farmed in Colombia: Farmed in Colombia” means that 100% of the coffee beans used in a product were grown in the country of Colombia, which is third-largest coffee producer in the world with a reputation for growing high-quality Arabica beans with a mild flavor.

Farmed in Peru: “Farmed in Peru” means that 100% of the coffee beans used in a product were grown in the country of Peru. Most of the coffee in Peru is grown by small farmers and hand-picked.

Fat Free: To meet fat free standards, the FDA says that a product must contain less than half a gram of fat per RACC (reference amount customarily consumed) and per labeled serving. The product also must be free of ingredients that are fat, or are understood to contain fat, unless the label states “adds a trivial amount of fat” in a footnote.

Fragrance Free: Fragrance free” means that nothing has been added to the product to change its smell, either natural or artificial.

Freezer Safe: Freezer safe products may be frozen without any damage.

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Gluten Free:  According to the FDA, gluten free products must contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. This is the lowest number that can be tested reliably. Products can be labeled gluten free if they naturally contain less than 20 ppm of gluten, or if they have been processed to remove the gluten.

Good Source Of: For a food to be described as a good source of a nutrient, the FDA requires it to contain 10 to 19 percent of the daily value (DV or DRV) of the nutrient per RACC (reference amount customarily consumed), which is usually labeled a serving.

Grade A (Maple Syrup): The USDA classifies Grade A maple syrup as having “good color, good flavor and odor, is practically free from all defects and is practically clear.” Grade A is the highest grade of U.S. maple syrup. This grade comes in four colors and taste descriptions. See Amber Color for more information on descriptions of Grade A syrup.

Grown and Canned in USA: All the tomatoes in the product were grown and produced in the United States of America.

Grown in Mexico: Products that say “grown in Mexico” were entirely grown in the country of Mexico.

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Hypoallergenic: Hypoallergenic” has no federal standard or definition that retailers must follow. At Brandless, our beauty products have been through RIPT, or “repeat insult patch testing.” This tests for skin allergies and sensitivities. Hypoallergenic doesn’t mean that there won’t be any allergic reaction to the product, but that the product causes fewer allergic reactions in the general public than other cosmetic products do.

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Kosher: Kosher products conform to the regulations of kashrut, or Jewish dietary law. To be labeled kosher, a product must be certified by a kosher certification agency under supervision by a rabbi. The federal government does not certify products as kosher.

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Low Fat: According to the FDA, a “low fat” food can’t contain more than 3 grams of fat per RACC (reference amount customarily consumed—in other words, what most people normally eat at one time). For meals and main dishes, this means 3 grams or less of fat per 100 grams of food, and no more than 30% of total calories can come from fat.

Low Sodium: To be labeled “low sodium,” a food has to contain 140 milligrams or less per serving or RACC (reference amount customarily consumed—in other words, what most people normally eat at one time). For meals and main dishes, this means 140 milligrams or less of sodium per 100 grams of food.

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Made From Fresh Coconuts: Coconut oil made entirely from fresh, rather than dried, coconuts. Using fresh coconuts gives a stronger coconut flavor and retains more nutrients.

Made in USA: To carry a “Made in USA” label, the Federal Trade Commission requires a product to be made “all or virtually all” in the United States.

Made With California Tomatoes: The product was made with tomatoes grown in California, the leading producer of tomatoes in the United States.

Made With Pure Essential Oils: The federal government does not define or regulate essential oils. People commonly define “pure essential oils” as oils extracted from plants, which have not been diluted by any additives. That’s our definition, too.

Made Without Rayon: Products made without rayon contain zero rayon, a fiber made from wood pulp that is often used as an alternative to cotton.  When rayon is bleached, it releases a byproduct called dioxin, which can potentially be The FDA recommends that feminine hygiene products be free of dioxin, but does not require it.

Microwave Safe: Microwave safe containers were designed to be used in the microwave. Brandless products labeled “microwave safe” can be used in the microwave up to 220 degrees Fahrenheit.

MSC Certified: MSC certified fish were wild caught or come from fisheries that meet the standards of sustainability, minimal environmental impact, and effective management put forth by the nonprofit Marine Stewardship Council.

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Natural Fermentation Process: Natural fermentation (or slow fermentation) is the conversion of carbs such as sugars into acid (like vinegar) or alcohol using only microorganisms that naturally exist in the product, as opposed to introducing bacteria or yeast to make the process go faster.

No Added Sugar: No added sugar” means a few specific things, according to the FDA. First of all, the product doesn’t have any sugar added to it. Second, it also doesn’t have anything added that can substitute for sugar, like jam or fruit juice. And third, nothing was done to the product that would substantially increase the sugar content in the ingredients, like using enzymes.

No Animal Testing: “No animal testing” on the label means that neither the product nor any of its ingredients were tested on animals.

No Artificial Flavors: No artificial flavors” means that nothing was added to flavor the food except products that come from a natural source. The FDA includes “spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof” in its list of natural flavorings.

No Artificial Preservatives: According to the FDA, “no artificial preservatives” means that no chemicals were added to the food to prevent or slow down deterioration. Per the FDA’s definition, “common salt, sugars, vinegars, spices, or oils extracted from spices, substances added to food by direct exposure thereof to wood smoke, or chemicals applied for their insecticidal or herbicidal properties” are not considered artificial preservatives.

No Chemical Residue: “No chemical residue” means that there are no chemicals in the product left over from processing.

No Fragrances: “No fragrances” is the same thing as “fragrance free.” It means that nothing has been added to the product to change its smell, either natural or artificial.

No HFCS: HFCS” stands for “high fructose corn syrup.” “No HFCS” means that none of this sweetener, which is made from corn starch, was added to the product.

No Hydrogenated Oils: “No hydrogenated oils” means that the product contains neither fully hydrogenated oils, which are solid, nor partially hydrogenated oils, the semisoft fats known as “trans fat.” The FDA has determined that trans fat is no longer generally recognized as safe.

No Parabens: “No parabens” means the product contains no parabens, a commonly used chemical preservative in cosmetics. Parabens are among from its beauty products.

No Preservatives: No preservatives” means that nothing natural or chemical has been added to the food to prevent or slow spoilage.

No SLS: “SLS free” or “No SLS” means the product contains no sodium lauryl sulfate, a chemical often used in skin and body care products. It’s known to have damaging effects on some people’s skin and on the environment. SLS is among from its beauty products.

Nonstick: Nonstick cookware has a finish that prevents food from sticking to it during baking or cooking.

Nonstick Silicone: Nonstick silicones do not stick. If they are used for food preparation, they must be made of nontoxic, food-grade silicone.

Non-GMO: Non-GMO means not genetically modified. This means that our food comes from organisms that occur in nature and are not engineered in a laboratory. While genetically modified food is allowed in the USA, we don’t think you should have to carefully read every label and decipher what it means, so we are telling you up-front, that all of our food products meet this standard. Even our vitamins and supplements are non-GMO, even though they are not subject to this type of regulatory requirement.

Nut Free: Nut free foods contain no peanuts or tree nuts. The FDA requires these two ingredients to be listed on the label if they are in a food, because they are allergens.

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Organic: Organic agricultural products are produced by methods produced by methods that the USDA says “foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.” No genetic engineering, radiation, or chemicals like pesticides, fertilizers, or dyes are allowed. To be labeled organic, a product must have at least 95 percent of its ingredients certified organic. The remaining 5 percent can be non-organic, but must come from a very small approved list of substances. The USDA certified organic seal means that the supplier was verified and is overseen by a USDA National Organic Program-authorized certifying agent, following all USDA organic regulations.

Organic Whole Grain Corn: Whole grain corn describes corn products that include the entire kernel (including popcorn!) for maximum nutritional benefits. Look for the words “whole corn” on labels and avoid the word “degerminated.”

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Packed in the USA: Packed in the USA” means that a product was packaged for sale in the United States of America.

Pan Fired: “Pan fired” green tea is an artisanal method of preparation. The tea is steamed, then rolled over fire in metal pans. This process keeps the tea from becoming bitter.

Pole & Troll Wild Caught: Pole and troll” wild caught fishing means the practice of catching fish in the ocean using a pole (fishing rod) and bait or with a troll line towed behind the boat. These are the two most sustainable ways of fishing for tuna.

Product of Canada: Product of Canada” means that all or virtually all major ingredients and labor that went into the product are Canadian.

Product of Italy:  “Product of Italy” means that the item was produced in Italy.

Product of USA: Product of USA” means that the product was made (or grown) all or virtually all in the United States of America.

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Raw, Unfiltered (Apple Cider Vinegar): Apple cider vinegar is made by fermenting apple cider with bacteria and yeast. When it’s unfiltered and raw (meaning that it hasn’t been filtered and likely hasn’t been pasteurized with heat), it looks cloudy and brown. This is because it still contains the “mother of vinegar,” a combination of fibers and bacteria that may be beneficial to digestion and overall health.

Rayon Free: Rayon-free products contain zero rayon, a fiber made from wood pulp that is often used as an alternative to cotton.  When rayon is bleached, it releases a byproduct called dioxin, which can potentially be toxic to humans. The FDA recommends that feminine hygiene products be free of dioxin, but does not require it.

Removes Grease: Dishwashing products with this description remove grease from your cookware and dishes.

Rich Taste: See Amber Color.

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Saturated Fat Free: Saturated fat free” foods must contain less than half a gram of saturated fat and less than half a gram of trans fat per serving, according to the FDA. They also can’t have any ingredients that contain saturated fat.

Septic Safe: “Septic safe” paper products are safe to use in toilets connected to a septic system. These are self-contained sewage management systems often found in rural areas. Rapid-dissolving bath tissue with no oils or lotions are safest for septic systems.

Slip Resistant Handle or Comfortable Non Slip Grip: Non slip or slip resistant handles have been designed and manufactured so that your hand won’t slip when you use them.

Sodium Free: Sodium-free products have less than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving, and contain no sodium chloride (aka table salt) or any other ingredient that contains sodium. The U.S. recommends people consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, but the average intake is more than 3,400.

Stainless Steel: Stainless steel is an alloy of steel that contains 12 or more percent chromium, which makes it resistant to rust and corrosion.

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Tree Free Paper Product: Tree free paper products are a more eco-friendly alternative to paper products made from wood pulp. They are made from “rapidly renewable” plants that grow more quickly than trees, such as sugar cane and bamboo.

True Source Certified: True Source certified honey has been traced by True Source, an independent third party organization. True Source verifies the country of origin and the beekeeper who harvested the honey from the hive. True Source verification is not required by the federal government.

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Unpasteurized: Unpasteurized foods have not been exposed to heat in order to kill microorganisms that may cause disease or spoil the food.

Unrefined Coconut Oil: Unrefined or virgin coconut oil was extracted from the coconut meat without the use of heat. Unrefined coconut oil smells and tastes like coconuts, while refined coconut oil is flavorless.

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Vegan: Vegan products contain no animal or animal by-products, and were not tested on animals. Animal products include meat, bones, dairy, eggs, leather, fur, feathers, wool, and honey.

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Waterproof: Waterproof products are impervious to water. They’re often covered or treated with a material like rubber to prevent water permeation.

“We conduct gluten testing on our products at random annually to validate the gluten free claim”: We conduct gluten testing of random samples of our products to verify the gluten free claim and to make sure that there has been no cross contamination of gluten during processing. The federal government does not require gluten testing.

Whole Grain Council 100% Seal: A 100% stamp from the Whole Grains Council means that a product is made with 100% whole grains, and that there is a minimum of 16 grams—a full serving—of whole grains per labeled serving.

Whole Grain Oats: Whole grain oats contain the entire naturally occurring oat grain with nothing removed, though they can be cracked, rolled, or cooked, as long as they keep the same balance of nutrients. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), whole grain food benefits include heart health and is linked to good digestion and a healthy weight. Look for the word “whole” in front of the first ingredient on the label, or the 100% Whole Grains Food Council stamp.

Whole Wheat Spaghetti: Whole wheat spaghetti is made from whole wheat flour or whole durum wheat flour and water only. It has a nuttier flavor and coarser texture than regular spaghetti, and doesn’t have any of the added ingredients you might see in regular spaghetti, such as egg white, frozen egg white, dried egg white, disodium phosphate, onions, celery, garlic, bay leaf, salt, gum gluten, or concentrated glyceryl monostearate.

With the Mother: The “vinegar mother” is a colony of beneficial bacteria that turns wine, cider, and other liquids into vinegar through fermentation. It shows up as cloudy solids in the bottle. Vinegar that contains the mother is unfiltered and usually unpasteurized, and may contain some probiotics. You can filter it out and still get the main health benefits associated with vinegar, such as stabilizing blood sugar.

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Zero Trans Fat:Zero trans fat means that there is less than half a percent of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, aka trans fats, per serving. The FDA has determined that trans fat is no longer generally recognized as safe.