United Kingdom

Good Club: Could this eco-friendly supermarket help cut waste?

Buying food from a supermarket, either in-store or online, often results in households dealing with a huge mountain of waste - including packaging that cannot be recycled. 

Now, an online sustainable grocer – Good Club – is hoping to help our fight with plastic and cardboard packaging through the launch of its zero-waste delivery service.

The business, launched in 2019 and set-up by Danny Blackman and former Farmdrop founder Ben Patten, claims to be the first retailer to collect all the reusable packaging from shoppers' homes the next day.

Good Club is trying to change the way people shop and buy groceries through its zero waste product range

Ben says: 'We'll never be filling up our customers' bins, unlike other services, which deliver in paper bags and cardboard boxes, which need to be recycled and can only really be used a handful of times.

'Our delivery crates will be used indefinitely. We think it's a simple solution to a complicated problem'.

How does it work?

To benefit from the discounts on offer, online shoppers must subscribe to the Good Club as members at a cost of £30 a year, which works out to £2.50 a month.

Membership gives shoppers access to 3,000 discounted sustainable products and monthly delivery and collection. 

Deliveries are made via a carbon neutral courier. Shoppers can also give back by referring a friend to the service. 

For every successful referral, Good Club will donate a food parcel to a local foodbank. 

If you sign up for the month of January, you will also get a free zero waste glass storage jar worth £4.50 – simply use the code ZEROWASTE at checkout to get the deal.

If you're a household on a low income you can join too – for free. All you have to do is apply for the subsidy in the application. 

Ben says: 'We don't have strict guidelines, we ask people to apply and provide some details. We have never rejected an application to date. It's there to help people and it's a cost we've factored in.

The Good Club was launched in 2019 and set up by Danny Blackman (left) and former Farmdrop founder Ben Patten

Ben says that there's no evidence that people are abusing this honesty system when it comes to the membership fee. To date the company has 6,000 members, 245 of whom are free members.

Ben says: 'It's our mission to make sustainable living achievable for all. Our new zero waste delivery service is just the start.'

The company has just over 3,000 products in its range to which it's added 75 of its new zero-waste products. By March this zero-waste range will be boosted to 150 products.

Ben adds: 'We're really excited by this new range - and it's been a direct response to members - we now send out all deliveries in boxes which are returned to us, along with the product packaging for any product bought in the zero-waste range.'

The fight to going green

Ben admits there are packed products by other brands on offer through Good Club but that reaching zero waste is still the businesses' 'north star'. The problem is convincing big businesses to change their ways.

Ben points out: 'For a lot of brands, packaging is their identity and brand equity and it's not something they've thought about, but we are helping them along.

'We're here to help people and don't try to judge anyone. We understand that it's hard to change but we try and make it easier to change habits.'

The business also fights against consumer's need for a cheaper product. Ben says the business is making progress, pointing out that it's basmati rice is only 33p more than Asda's range.

It's our mission to make sustainable living achievable for all. Our new zero waste delivery service is just the start 

Ben Patten, co-founder of Good Club

He explains: 'We know we won't get there on every category and every product but that still informs our thinking. 

'I think there are perhaps some limits to how low you can go on pricing without sacrificing important environmental standards and we need to ensure that we're helping people consume in a sustainable way.'

When asked about the company's success to date, Ben assures it's doing sales in the 'multiple millions'. However, two years on, the business is not profitable yet.

But Ben is optimistic about the future, pointing out that people are gravitating towards shopping online more: 'There is a much easier route for online retailers than it was 15 years ago for the likes of Ocado and others.

He admits that it's possible for families to take their own containers to supermarkets if they want to be eco-friendly, but says that many don't do this as it's not always practical.

'I think part of what we are doing is about convenience and fitting into new ways of shopping. The returns thing works better online than offline with the reusable pots.'

Shoppers can also give back by referring a friend to the service. For every successful referral, Good Club will donate a food parcel to a local foodbank

How does Good Club compare on price?

The founders claim that Good Club is 'extremely competitive' with all the major national supermarket chains and specialist health stores.

In Good Club's own price comparison exercise conducted in February last year looking at like for like products, the company claims it came in 53 per cent cheaper than the average available price across its entire range.

Good Club also claims to be 15 per cent cheaper on average than every major retailer across an average basket, including delivery fees.

Danny says: 'For example, compared to leading supermarkets Ocado and Sainsbury's, we were 26 per cent cheaper across an average basket at Ocado and 16 per cent cheaper than the equivalent at Sainsbury's including delivery fees.'

'Availability of sustainable products was also patchy at supermarkets, with no major retailers stocking the full range of sustainable products to fill an average basket. 

'The retailers focused on sustainability were able to meet the majority of our range, but their prices were on average 30 per cent more expensive.'

Where it may, however, turn people off is through its £30 membership fee. Ben admits that this could be a sticking point, but adds: 'In a way, the commitment of membership helps us offer lower prices, but we're working on introducing new ways of accessing the service that suit different households.'

It costs £30 a year to become a member of Good Club but low income households can apply to be members for free

Britain's waste problem 

Research by YouGov shows that 83 per cent of UK consumers consider environmental sustainability of food and household items to be important, however sustainable products account for only eight per cent of sales.

Good Club says it's trying to solve the massive waste problem the UK is facing. But it's a mammoth task - every year, 400million tonnes of plastic is produced and that only 40 per cent of that is single use.

But it's not impossible to change. The added challenge will be convincing the public to switch from stalwarts like Sainsbury's, Asda and Tesco.

Good Club has ensured that access to its services is possible for 90 per cent of UK addresses. As for the other 10 per cent – Ben says the business is working on it.

He adds: 'More importantly, perhaps, we are working on ways to make our products more accessible. A lot of this will be about helping people further on price.

'Ultimately, everyone needs to tread a little more lightly on the planet and pretty much everyone wants to. We're just here to make it easier. 

'We know we're not there for every household yet, but that's our goal.'

Rubbish doesn't only end up in landfill. Oceans suffer greatly as a result of all the pollution that finds its way into the sea – which amounts to eight million tonnes a year. 

Good Club says that experts predict that by 2050 the amount of plastic in the sea will weigh more than the world's fish.

Waste is a worldwide problem, but Good Club is not yet ready to expand internationally. 

Ben says: 'That's not something that we're thinking about too much for now. But again, sustainable shopping needs to be something we all do.'

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