Meet our Friday Muse James Denton, founder of GoodFor

4 July 2024
By Fashion Quarterly

We speak to the man whose innovative wholefood stores are revolutionising the way we shop for groceries.

James Denton. Image: A McVinnie.

If you’ve ever set foot inside a GoodFor store, you’ll know that they’re no run-of-the-mill supermarkets. Founded in 2016 by entrepreneur James Denton and his wife Georgie, GoodFor is a purpose-led, package-free grocery business designed to change the way we shop for essentials. Beyond being a place to stock up your pantry, each one of GoodFor’s stores offers an experience—something Denton is incredibly passionate about. Their newest store, located in Tāmaki Makaura’s Grey Lynn suburb, is perhaps the most elevated of them all, from the bespoke steel basin you cleanse your hands upon entry, right down to the handmade chocolate station where visitors can get their sugar fix. With stores now dotted all over the country, and likely more to come in the near future, it’s clear that Aotearoa is picking up what Denton’s putting down.

We spoke with the founder to find out more about his newly-opened store, what people can expect when they visit, and his plans for GoodFor moving forward.

Tell us a bit about you, your background and your career to date:

I’m the proud father of two kids, with another on the way, and alongside my wonderful partner, Georgie, we founded GoodFor. Hailing from Ōtepoti, my entrepreneurial journey began after my days at Otago University. GoodFor has been our passion project for eight years, and we’re deeply committed to making a meaningful impact on consumption and in particular food waste.  It feels like we’re just scratching the surface of what we can achieve with GoodFor and I’m excited about what the future holds

You started your waste-free wholefoods business GoodFor back in 2016. Where did the vision for this come from?

I have always been deeply fascinated by nature and its intricate workings. The undeniable negative impact that plastic has on our environment served as the catalyst for the creation of GoodFor. Plastic pollution has reached a point where it is even present inside our bodies, highlighting the urgent need for significant habitual changes to reduce our reliance on plastic.

Our vision was to create a shopping environment that harmonised with nature, where every product had a minimal impact on the environment. We recognised a gap in the market for a contemporary and well-designed grocery store that enabled people to shop without using plastic. The idea of creating such a place resonated with us, and we were driven to bring it to life.

Inside GoodFor's new Grey Lynn store.
Inside GoodFor's new Grey Lynn store.

You’ve recently opened your GoodFor location in Grey Lynn, Tell us about this space and what you wanted to do differently with it? 

The Generation II concept in Grey Lynn is inspired by our ongoing conversations with our audience, addressing their needs to enhance their shopping experience. We envisioned a space where people could truly enjoy themselves. By designing it for effortless refilling and elevating the experience beyond just “sustainability,” we’ve created an enjoyable and calming retail environment.

What can people expect when they visit a GoodFor store? 

At our stores, high-quality organic products are just the beginning. Our wonderful team ensures that shopping at GoodFor is a streamlined and calming experience. Our newest location transforms traditional food shopping into a meditative process. Upon entry, you’ll be invited to cleanse your hands in a bespoke steel basin before thoughtfully exploring each station to grind, mill, fill, and pour a curated range of organic household and pantry items. We’ve also introduced innovative liquid dispensing tech which includes multiple vinegars, oils and even three types of Canadian maple syrup on tap at our pancake and waffle station. We are committed to providing an incredible experience, with our unique strength lying in our dedication to environmental sustainability.

Inside GoodFor's new Grey Lynn store.

What have been some of the challenges associated with building a purpose-driven business?

The last four years have been incredibly challenging for businesses due to the pandemic, inflation, and climate-related supply interruptions. Purpose-driven businesses, in particular, face the ongoing challenge of telling their story and encouraging people to think long-term and make wise purchasing decisions. We are always competing against the cheaper conventional market, making it essential to emphasise the value and impact of mindful consumption.

What are some small things people can do to minimise the amount of waste they use?

Starting a refillable pantry is the ultimate way to start eliminating waste. Gather jars and containers, label them and bring them to your local refill shop. This consistent good habit will eliminate around 50% of your packing waste alone. And unlike the sales-driven supermarkets, you walk away with only what you need, another way to cut down on food waste. 

Do you have a favourite customer story or interaction since founding GoodFor?

We have thousands of incredible customers who take great care of their environmental impact and seeing customers rolling into stores with 2-3 boxes of empty jars to refill is the ongoing highlight of running GoodFor. 

What’s next in the pipeline for GoodFor? Where would you like to see the business in five years time?

GoodFor has recently appointed ex-Wholefoods Market CEO Walter Robb as its first independent director and with Walter’s help, we hope to continue to deliver an exceptional customer experience. We want to be the most sustainable grocery store in the world. 

Inside GoodFor's new Grey Lynn store.

Quickfire questions:

Where you’ll find me holidaying this season… I’ll be working but hope to get a day of skiing in with the family at Whakapapa.

My favourite place to dine… Littlebird cafe.

The best book I’ve read recently… Endurance by Joanna Grochowicz.

Best coffee spot… Red Rabbit – Saint Georges Bay Road.

The most cherished item in my home is… My set of fermenting jars – I love to make Sauerkraut. And not an item, but the people that make it home, my wife and kids. 

My dream concert lineup is… Fat Freddy’s, Ben Howard, Jack Johnson.  

Three items I would take to a desert island… Knife, Fishing Rod, Flint Striker and a GoodFor Hazelnut heaven bar.

Imagery: supplied.

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