What does American made mean to us?

Apr 30, 2020

What does American made mean to us?

As we continue to flesh out our extension with American made products, of which we are at 160k currently, we wanted to write down our criteria for adding something to our database. We usually go by the FTC guidelines. The FTC mandates require “all or virtually all” of the product to be made in the USA to be able to put Made in the USA on the product, which they further elaborate to be:
“All or virtually all” means that all significant parts and processing that go into the product must be of U.S. origin. That is, the product should contain no — or negligible — foreign content. Source

So we are sticking to the same standard. Things like “Made in the USA with globally sourced components” “Assembled in the US””Designed in America” WILL NOT be listed in our extension. There are however some big caveats and things to consider.

The state of Tea/Chocolate/Coffee grown in the USA

These 3 products are not very economical to grow in the United States, and the local alternatives are significantly more expensive. We want to ensure people have some reasonable options as they shop, it’s a core part of the experience we want to give people. We don’t have any of these items listed in our extension currently, except if they are grown in the United states. However based on the cost and variety we may add on some ethically sourced options that are grown in other countries.


We have found one excellent tea option, Charleston Tea Plantation, however the price is quite a bit higher than normal tea. As we look on Amazon normal decent teas are around 10c a bag, and this is 50c. However we think it’s enough of an improvement, since there is so little processing that goes into tea, that we should stick to a very strict measure, so we won’t be adding more tea companies currently unless they can also show they also use American grown tea.


It is not easy to find American grown Cocoa. There are some plantations in Hawaii, but the price is around 10$ for a 3 ounce dark chocolate bar, and we think that if that’s our only option it won’t serve our users very well. Currently there are no chocolates in our extension, for this category we will add a selection of companies that do as much of the process as possible in the US, roasting, sorting that type of thing. They will also need to have only free trade and ethical chocolate. We don’t think offering the very expensive hawaiin chocolate as our only option is good enough. 


Hawaii grows a reasonable amount of coffee, it’s just very expensive. It’s similar to chocolate in that an ethical, fair trade 8oz bag of coffee on Amazon is 9-10$, and for Hawaiian grown coffee it seems to be 22-45$. We don’t currently have any coffee in our extension, however I believe when we start listing it we will include ethical options that aren’t grown in the United States, unless our research turns up some better alternatives. In our research into Hawaiian grown coffee it was disappointing to see a few companies trying to cash in on the fact Hawaii does grow coffee beans. We found quite a few listings that all but say they use Hawaiian grown coffee beans, but when you read the fine print you see they are just a coffee roaster situated on the islands.

We are also looking at things like almonds, granola, trail mix and trying to figure out if it’s reasonable to include ethically sourced options that are not grown in the United States, or if there are enough reasonable locally grown options to only have those.

What Clothing do we consider made in the USA?

For textiles, to be able to claim it’s made in the USA the fabric has to have been manufactured in the US, but not necessarily the yarn or fiber used to make the fabric. So if a cotton shirt is made out of cotton grown in the US, that would be called “Made in the USA”. But if a cotton shirt was made out of fabric that was made out of imported cotton, that would also be called “Made in the USA”. We will be including all clothing that says “Made in the USA”, even though a lot of it will have foreign yarn or fibers. That’s because it’s not feasible to get information on that from companies, they will be very reluctant to tell us if the yarn/fibers are US made or not. A lot of our information comes from reading labels, and if we are purely reliant on companies to tell us we won’t be able to make a large catalog.


The short answer, there is none. There will be almost no electronics in our extension for quite a while. Very little of it is made in the United States, we did find a 2000$ phone, and it seems very hard to find any that don’t have a tremendous amount of components coming from China. 

The products listed here all have unique reasons for why it is difficult to find an American version. In the case of tea/chocolate/coffee, it can only be grown in a fairly narrow band of the United states, and it needs to be harvested by hand. The cost of the land and labour is vastly more than what it would be in some other countries, and that has caused a large price disparity. For electronics, a lot of the devices have a large amount of components, and it seems more effective if everything is built close to each other, and that was conceded to China. Shoes are difficult to make using machines, and due to that it’s significantly cheaper to make them in places where the cost of labour is much lower.

We’ve found a lot more great local options than we expected when we started. We assumed everything would be like tea/chocolate/coffee, where the local options are 3-5 times as expensive, but that’s not how it is. For a lot of products there are great locally made alternatives for around the same price or slightly more. We are optomistic about the eventual size of the products we’ve cataloged, we hope to have a reasonable option for pretty much anything you might want (except for US made electronics 🙁 )

In the future we might adopt a system where we include more options into our extension, of companies that manufacture in the US using some % of foreign components, and very clearly label them. We will see how content people are with the choices offered to them by only 100% American made products.


The team here at BuyLocalized

Gareth Struivig de Groot is the founder of Buy Localized. He originally hails from Vancouver, and he is passionate about helping people get informed about where the things they purchase come from.
  1. Mercer McArthur Faulkner

    I agree with your focus to reveal where products come from. Personally, I am comfortable purchasing products made outside the US as long as it is not from the CCP or other socialistic/repressive countries.

    • Gareth


      Ya I agree with you, that’s pretty much the same standard that we have. It just makes it a more marketable product if we focus on Made in USA, and then add other countries in the future. It would take a similar amount of effort to find and American item as it would to find a Canadian item, but it’s better to have a complete catalog from one place instead of a fractured catalog. The one exception will be electronics, and we will be implementing a special solution for that at some point.



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