James Denton seems to have a way with business; everything he takes on makes a lasting impression and for all the right reasons. His latest venture is full steam ahead and not even he himself could have foreseen the impact it is having on the consumer mindset.
Born and raised in Dunedin, James has always been somewhat of a free spirit, one to grab any opportunity and just roll with it. This tactic doesn’t work for most but James seems to have a way that gets people excited and he creates for himself a mass following.
GoodFor isn’t his first success story.
After studying accounting and finance at Otago University, James set off to travel the world. While in Mexico James found his first love – softshell tacos.
It became a bit of an obsession he admits. This obsession became a business and James’ first success story, offering New Zealand’s first freshly-pressed tacos.
This too created quite the buzz — a buzz similar to what we are seeing with GoodFor now. Tacomedic, as it was named, remains thriving in Queenstown to this day.
James’ ambitious nature and will to do more saw him step away from Tacomedic and search for something more meaningful. Social media aided his decision to step towards sustainability.
What began as a personal battle to cut down plastic waste turned into the popular packagefree store we know as GoodFor, set to prove that shopping waste-free is not as difficult as it may seem.
He’s bringing bulk food stores back into the 21st century and in doing so encouraging the mass population to rethink their throw-away nature.
Converting the masses
James hasn’t always been environmentally conscious, it was Facebook that garnered his interest in waste reduction after seeing clip upon clip of the pollution we are facing.
According to the Ministry for the Environment, New Zealanders send around 220,000 tonnes of plastic waste to land fill every year, which equates to around 60kg per person of plastic waste alone. Not to mention around 600,000 tonnes of paper and cardboard waste.
Seeing images of plastic-ridden oceans was enough for James to make some changes to his personal habits.
The small changes that were ignited by social media snow-balled after James got talking to a friend who was studying architecture.
“He was studying at AUT and his focus was on radical sustainability, and he woke me up to the true nature of the problem. I was talking to him a lot and he sort of made the switch for me between talking about it and doing something about it.”
James’ enthusiasm, however, wasn’t matched by all. “I did an investment run and spoke to a lot of people who were very business savvy and they didn’t believe this concept would fly. They thought it was very niche and we were targeting a very small market.” Despite what GoodFor conveys, it wasn’t the environmentally-conscious folk that James set out to target at all.
James wanted to make his model interesting and attractive to trend setters. “We have done it in a way that is attracting the mainstream of people.
“I have always said I am not preaching to the converters; to make the biggest change you have to attract the mass market,” he says.
“A lot of our customers don’t have the environmentally-conscious aspect on their minds, they just think the store is trendy and cool, a place where they can get their kombucha and super foods from — having no waste is just a bonus.”
As for the naysayers, James says, “it feels good that it’s surviving”.
The first GoodFor store was opened in Ponsonby on March 5, 2017 as well as a second store in Parnell. Just over a year on, James is proud to see many regulars returning on a weekly basis.
And though the waste-free aspect wasn’t the majority’s initial drive, upon the realisation of what GoodFor is hoping to achieve, coupled with the ease of the waste-free model for customers, it’s definitely a clencher that keeps them coming back.
The popularity of GoodFor has accumulated a lot of media hype and though you wouldn’t pick James as a shy guy, he was a bit stand-offish at first, but acknowledges it’s doing the stores a world of good.
The GoodFor website is brimming with delicious recipes and an online shopping option for those who don’t have the convenience of a GoodFor store close by.
Currently riding the wave of adrenalin and excitement, and utilising the hype surrounding his concept, GoodFor is set to expand throughout the country with a third store about to open in Wellington in the up coming months.
In order to achieve James’ ultimate goal, this momentum needs to keep up.
James makes it look relatively easy, and he has made it easy for customers, but to be entirely 100 percent waste free isn’t easy in our society.
Single-use plastics are entrenched in our day-today lives and it will take years to eliminate all the unnecessary usage.
“It’s basically impossible to be entirely waste free because there are regulations on how food has to be packaged to be brought into New Zealand.”
As often as he can, James sources products locally, but to offer the range GoodFor has available, some of their products have to be imported. “At the moment it makes it hard but it’s going to get better and better and I am constantly trying to find local alternatives.”
On top of that, the only regulation around food packaging in New Zealand is that it must be food safe. It doesn’t have to be recyclable by any means. Even with recyclable products, you need the infrastructure to support it, “Just because it is recyclable doesn’t mean it will be recycled, there has to be a whole system in place.
“If we can create a network of these stores and continue to build our brand, we could have a really positive impact on the way people treat waste.” And that’s the ultimate goal.
GoodFor is more to James than ‘just another day, another dollar’, there is something larger at play. The concept is making us think twice about our choices and the bigger the model gets, the clearer the message will become.
“I already feel like it’s happening. We are already starting to influence the bigger companies to start thinking this way.”
James is showing no sign of slowing down, his franchise options are bursting with possible candidates and he has a steady stream of loyal customers in his already-established stores.
His message to the big guys is starting to be heard and with this continued motion, James believes, soon everyone in New Zealand will be able to shop sustainably, easily and look good while they’re doing it.
“It will only be up to whether they care about the state of New Zealand’s environment.”
By Natalia Rietveld