One thing that we do know about reuse systems is that it doesn't matter how efficient your logistics are and how great your standardization is. If you can't get the packaging back, you can't accomplish your goal.
CO2 emissions went up tremendously over the years because of the increase in human activity, especially those related to manufacturing and trading of goods. Overconsumption has also resulted in a huge waste problem, which continues to exponentially increase our carbon footprint on this planet
Thankfully, more and more companies and organizations have gone green, not just promoting but actually implementing planet-friendly initiatives such as the use of reusable packaging to eliminate single-use plastics and ultimately reduce waste. One of which is Good Goods whose goal is to invent a circular supply chain for wine bottles by introducing reuse into the experience.
In this episode, we have with us Zach Lawless, CEO of Good Goods, who will be sharing with us his plans to bring the reuse economy to the wine industry. We discuss their journey from way back in 2017 when they first launched reusable containers, how their program works and benefits both consumers and retailers, the positive environmental impact of using reusable packaging, and reducing the footprint of mission-driven food brands.
Reusing and practicing sustainability can turn things around and counter the harmful effects caused by activities that are heavy on CO2 emissions. With the Good Goods program, you can provide quality products to your consumer while helping the planet in a simple yet highly impactful way. Listen in to learn more about Good Goods!
Virginia Foodie Essentials:
Reusing is really about building a network. You have to be able to get people to return products back and deal with your retailers to bring those products back for producers to utilize reusable packaging. - Zach Lawless
The thing about wine is that it’s so unique that it could easily move over. You as a producer can transition to reusable bottles way quicker than most industries. - Zach Lawless
Our goal is to reach that leverage point of what is the lightest bottle that we can use so that we can reduce the transformation, but also not reduce integrity for reuse. - Zach Lawless
People are more willing to go out of their way to make sure it goes back to the right home, back to the right place to be reused. - Zach Lawless
With Good Goods, you can have a quality wine and one that cares about the environmental footprint as well. - Zach Lawless
Key Points From This Episode:
All about Good Goods Company
Innovating solutions to some of the world's biggest problems
Reusable wine bottles from Good Goods
Good Goods Vision
The effect of the pandemic on the business
Transitioning to reusable bottles from standard ones
Sanitation process of the wine bottles
Environmental impact of standard wine packaging
Other Resources Mentioned:
More about the Guest:
Zach Lawless is the CEO and co-founder of Good Goods, a company that creates reuse activations for both brands and retailers that engage consumers to actually return the products or the packaging for those products.
Zach is a serial entrepreneur and a passionate social impact creator with professional experience across the fields of sustainability, finance, and food and wine. Motivated to find a solution to growing global plastic waste and the recycling crisis of 2017, Zack decided to start his own business to solve some of these challenges.
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Click Here for Full Transcript:
[00:00:00] Zach Lawless: Our big vision is that you'll walk into a retailer or you're walking into anywhere, and they will have a reuse program that is powered by Good Goods. And it will apply to the cup that you get at the coffee stand to the packaging you got for your shampoo all the way into the wine.
[00:00:17] Georgiana Dearing: Welcome to The Virginia Foodie Podcast, where we lift the lid on the craft food industry and tell the stories behind the good food, good people, and good brands that you know and love. If you've ever come across a yummy food brand and wondered, "How did they do that? How do they turn that recipe into a successful business?" Then we've got some stories for you.
Hi, Foodies. Welcome back to the podcast. The pandemic has put a magnifying glass on so many aspects of the local food movement. And one topic that may or may not surprise you is the search for sustainable packaging. I've been involved in a lot of discussions this year about how to reduce the footprint of mission-driven food brands coupled with the squeeze on supply chains. Introducing packaging that uses fewer resources is not just good for the planet, it's a good business move. Because October is Virginia Wine Month and we're celebrating all things wine in and around the Commonwealth, I reached out to Zach Lawless, the CEO, and co-founder of Good Goods, a company that is inventing a circular supply chain for wine bottles by introducing reuse into the experience.
Zach is a serial entrepreneur and a passionate social impact creator with professional experience across the fields of sustainability, finance, and food and wine. Motivated to find a solution to growing global plastic waste and the recycling crisis of 2017, Zack decided to start his own business to solve some of these challenges. He first launched Fresh Bowl in 2017, a business that provided grab-n-go food served in reusable containers in New York City. They designed an innovative model for engaging and incentivizing customers to return used containers, eventually collecting 85% of its packages back, proof that customers can and will participate in reuse programs particularly if they present with the right goal.
In 2020, he launched Good Goods to introduce reuse as a service in the US wine industry. The company takes a two-pronged approach. One, they pick up, sanitize and resell existing bottles to producers building reuse into the wine lifecycle. And two, they provide standardized reusable branded bottles to wineries across the US. With each purchase, Good Goods manages a customer loyalty program that incentivizes future purchases, collecting valuable customer data and building relationships in the process. Listen to Zach tell about his plans to bring the reuse economy to the wine industry. It's an interesting model that's of particular interest to true land and brand stewards. Hi Zach, welcome to the podcast.
[00:03:18] Zach Lawless: Hi Georgiana. It's great to be here. Thanks for having me on the podcast today.
[00:03:22] Georgiana Dearing: Sure. I'm excited to have you because I think your product line aligns with our listeners' interests. So I would love it if you could introduce yourself and your company, and give us an idea of what you're up to these days.
[00:03:35] Zach Lawless: Yes, awesome. So I'll introduce myself first and then go into the company. So as you introduce, my name is Zach Lawless. I am the CEO of Good Goods. Good Goods is a company that creates reuse activations for both brands and retailers that engage consumers actually returning the products or the packaging for those products. And the reason I use engaging is because we really focus on how to build programs that customers want to use, and how you get put programs that customers will actually return that packaging. Because the one thing that we do know about reuse systems is that it doesn't matter how efficient your logistics are, how great your standardization is, if you can't get the packaging back, you can't accomplish your goal. So that is really what the goal of the company is. I've been personally working in the reuse, spaced out for about three years. I came from an investing background. So I was working for, in social impact, investing.
At that time, I became really enamored with, how can we use business solutions to some of the world's biggest problems? And really how can that value the businesses from how they're hiring talent and other growing partnerships that they can have? And the first business that I got into was actually doing grab-n-go food in reusable containers.
So we launched this in about 2017, around the same time that China stopped accepting plastics. And so we did reusable containers really as a way to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. And we went in completely blind to how to build a reuse model. We really did it just how everybody else did. Okay, it was an $8 salad. Let's put $2 onto the deposit and we'll give that $2 back to the customer. But two months into the whole program, we were getting 20% of our packaging back. And our number one complaint on customer surveys was that the customer had to return the packaging.
[00:05:29] Georgiana Dearing: Oh, that's the whole program.
[00:05:31] Zach Lawless: Yes, that was a little program. So what we learned really quickly is that we were competing with disposability as a product feature for the products that we're making. And disposability is a very convenient product feature, a very hard one to beat for sure. And so we had to go back and think about how we create a model that makes it easier, more engaging for consumers to return.
[00:05:54] Georgiana Dearing: And is that why you use that phrase, "reuse activation"? It's like you're trying to activate that audience to participate?
[00:06:01] Zach Lawless: Yes, because reuse is really about building a network. You have to be able to get people to return products back. You'll deal with your retailers to bring those products back, and for producers to actually utilize reusable packaging. And so the whole idea is how can we activate all three of those parties at the same time to get reuse actually take hold.
[00:06:22] Georgiana Dearing: So this was grab-n-go food solutions, that's one company and that you started in New York in 2017. Is that still moving forward?
[00:06:32] Zach Lawless: Yes. So the grab-n-go food Fresh Bowl, my Fresh Bowl is still going on. We're at about 30 locations in New York City. Mostly now since the pandemic in private offices and things of that nature, prior to the pandemic we are in subway centers, college campuses, public locations. So it was just the pandemic that moved us more into private locations, and then also gave us opportunities to take a step back and think about what industry can make the biggest impact for their model, and that's how we got into wine.
[00:07:02] Georgiana Dearing: Okay, so you're in wine now with Good Goods. Is this just your first Good Goods product in the long run or is just wine your focus for Good Goods?
[00:07:12] Zach Lawless: The big vision is definitely that there's more than wine. We are solely focused on wine at the moment. So I'll make that very clear. But our big vision is that you'll walk into a retailer or you walk into anywhere, and they will have a reuse program that is powered by Good Goods. And it will apply to the cup that you get at the coffee stand to the packaging you got for your shampoo, all the way into the wine. So really about more of creating a model for reason in general.
[00:07:37] Georgiana Dearing: So I want to go back and ask you about the pandemic. You launched into wine in 2020, so you're using glass bottles. And how does that work just with the pandemic in general?
[00:07:50] Zach Lawless: Prior to the pandemic, we're focused on grab-n-go food. During the pandemic, everything closed down and put traffic on our locations. In about 95% of our public locations for traffic and sales stops the day that COVID hit. So we had to really focus on where we wanted to move. And we made that transition into wine because we thought, what we believe is that if reuse is going to be successful, wine needs to be the category that leads reuse into more of a mass-market program. Because wine is in durable, reasonable bottles already, it's highly standardized. The market has adapted pretty quickly. Something like 75% of the volume within the wine industry could be moved to just six formats of bottles without ever changing the production line to those wines.
[00:08:44] Georgiana Dearing: Okay. You answered my question before I asked. So it's highly standardized. There's not a lot of shapes, so that's good.
[00:08:51] Zach Lawless: Yes. Some people are like, oh, I use a slightly different tip to my bottle. But the thing about wine that is so unique is that for instance, it could easily move over. You as a producer can transition to reusables, to reusable bottles way quicker than most industries. For instance, Haagen Dazs moved over to a reusable aluminum container for some of their use. And that process took two and a half years so that they completely redesigned the packaging, they had changed over their manufacturing lines. They had to do a ton to be able to have that happen. But 75% of the wine industry could literally switch tomorrow and start doing reusable bottles. So there's an opportunity for wine to move very quickly.
[00:09:31] Georgiana Dearing: So tell me about this from the wine producers' standpoint, what changes other than having to choose from some standardized bottles, what other changes could they expect?
[00:09:42] Zach Lawless: The main change that they need to make is really changing that adhesive for the bottle. So the main thing coming between being able to reuse a wine bottle or not is how easy it is to wash off that label. So just making sure that they're using a label that can, or where adhesive can come off is really the main part in integrating into our program. We even allow options for the producer to use their existing bottle, as long as it's durable and not to go through the sanitization process.
[00:10:08] Georgiana Dearing: So now I got way more technical questions about this because I'm so curious. So the wine producer would then be ordering Shiner's empty bottles from you, right?
[00:10:19] Zach Lawless: Yes.
[00:10:20] Georgiana Dearing: And my understanding, these are only corked, so not screw tops at this time.
[00:10:27] Zach Lawless: I only provide corks. Some of our producers, they're using their existing bottles that are in screw top. But if you're using our standardized bottles, it's cork top.
[00:10:34] Georgiana Dearing: Okay. So if they're just switching over to your bottles, they're going to order them from you, run them through their regular production process, cork them, label them with a special adhesive, sell them to their wine clubs, and then how do we get those bottles back?
[00:10:51] Zach Lawless: So they'll sell them in a distributor. They will sell them to retailers in the same way that they normally do. Now that customer comes back to the retailer, they return that bottle by scanning a QR code on the back of the bottle, and they'll get a credit, a store credit towards their next purchase. And the next time that they want to purchase something at that store, they just show the retailer or either give each other the phone number or show them their unique identifier, which is a QR code, and the retailer will apply that dollar credit towards their next purchase.
[00:11:21] Georgiana Dearing: Okay. So you're using a QR code to connect the consumer back to the point of purchase, which another thing is, it's an incentive to drive traffic back into the original venue, right, is to come back?
[00:11:35] Zach Lawless: That's correct. And that's why retailers loved the program so much because we're getting customers back in the door on average in five days, which is a much quicker turnaround than normal for the customers.
[00:11:44] Georgiana Dearing: Wow. Okay, they take that wine home, drink it, and they were right back there.
[00:11:49] Zach Lawless: Yes, it's a quick turnaround.
[00:11:52] Georgiana Dearing: So one other thing I noticed reading up about your product is for your production generated bottles, you're using a little bit heavier weight glass than possible. Is that right? You talked about having bottles that need to survive the sanitation process. So you're using a specific type of bottle.
[00:12:09] Zach Lawless: Well, so the nice thing about glass, in general, is it is durable and reusable, and it's the standard format. We just never honored this. The only difference is that in some cases, lightweighting has become the environmental thing to do by decreasing the weight of the glass to reduce the environmental input pack of transporting it. But in those cases, sometimes the glass becomes so extreme that it doesn't hold up the recollection standardization process as well as we would hope. You'd have high levels of breakage. So anything above 450 grams of bottle size has the durability to participate in the program. We have our bottles that are just around 500 grams. So I would say it is not necessarily on the heavy side of a wine bottle, but it's not on the far end of lightweighting.
Our goal is to really reach that leverage point of what is the lightest bottle that we can use so that we can reduce the transportation, but also not reduce integrity for reuse.
[00:13:06] Georgiana Dearing: Yes, with some of the wine brands I've worked with, the weight of a bottle of wine is always an issue for wine clubs. Because if you're buying into a club that's not in your region, then you have to deal with shipping. And that's always a big added cost to the product, as well as an environmental impact.
[00:13:23] Zach Lawless: Yes, that cost. The nice thing about it is that a lot of the shippers that we use and that the wine brands use are generally flat rates. So the weight of the glass is not significant enough that it changes the cost or the price point of shipping for a lot of them. But it also just depends on what logistics provider you are using.
[00:13:43] Georgiana Dearing: So, what is the best size? Who are your best partners? Does it make sense? Because I imagine that there is a little bit of an upcharge on this bottle if it has to move back and forth a bit. It's a lot of questions in one.
[00:13:57] Zach Lawless: Not so much of an upcharge on it. The one thing that the producer does have to do is get the deposit integrated into the supply. Sometimes the distributor will add the deposit, sometimes the producer will add the deposit. That's the big hurdle and a big cost for the producer. But for the most part, the bottle price for what we can wash and get back to them is pretty competitive with the price that they would get a new bottle for. So from that standpoint, the pricing isn't much different. For who we look at is really being our target size. We don't have a real true target size of produce. We have an interest in partnering with people across the board from some of the largest wineries in the United States to some of the more local, smaller wineries as well too.
But I would say that the local smaller wineries that work more with independent retailers, those ones tend to move quicker and tend to have the ability to get to market a lot quicker. Yes, much more nimble. So most of our producers are in the market currently are definitely some more small, independent producers working with independent retailers. But hopefully, towards the end of Q1 next year, we'll have some much bigger producers that are joining on the platform.
[00:15:12] Georgiana Dearing: So that deposit then is the big incentive to bring people back, right? There's a little surcharge on that bottle. And if you bring that bottle back, you get it off. Or are they doing it embedded in the bottle price and you just get a credit to your next purchase?
[00:15:29] Zach Lawless: So this is part of the, really we're in testing and learning, which is around this idea of what is it that incentivizes a customer to return? And I think that we've had some of these really early learnings, and in Good Goods or in Fresh Bowl when we were doing the grab-n-go food setting. I think I mentioned that we did $8 salads with a $2 deposit. You bring it back to dollars. The little things we did change that to the point that we were getting an 80% return rate across our platform.
One of the most significant changes we made was instead of saying it's an $8 salad with a $2 deposit, it's now a $10 salad with a $2 reward. It was the same pricing, same structure, but we just positioned the customer differently. And that those little things change, like I said, to get us an 80% turn rate. But it also made the ability to return the bottles, the number two feature that people liked about our salads. All these things that you can do to really increase their turn rates make the packaging feel more valuable to the customer.
Almost everyone who buys Apple products has to get a drawer full of boxes for Apple products that they got, and they just haven't thrown the boxes away. That box feels the quality of that product or that quality of that packaging is so high that you feel bad throwing it away. You've built into the packaging itself holds goodwill with the customer. And so you can increase that goodwill. People are more willing to go out of their way to make sure it goes back to the right home, back to the right place to be reused. And so, even just changing certain things about it like changing from a plastic lid to a metal lid and things like that, and those also increased the ability to return. So we actually have a blog post about this, but there's a number of models that any brand can pull to be able to increase returns.
What we look at is the incentive is more of a justification for people. People generally aren't bringing it back because the dollar is worth the time because it's such a large monetary thing. But they do want to feel like they're receiving something for it.
[00:17:34] Georgiana Dearing: I was just going to say, what does that dollar represent and how do you do that? And you mentioned something in there. There's a little trick in those punch cards at coffee shops. It's like buy five, get one free, or you got to buy 10 and we'll give you the first two punches. And so, it even actually ends up costing slightly more, but because you feel a little bit farther along the continuum that you are more likely to come back and start filling that up. So just that flip around by saying a $10 salad and a $2 bonus towards your next one, it's the same money. It's just that it has a different meaning.
[00:18:18] Zach Lawless: And it's funny, it's a new way of consumer psychology. We've put so much thought into how we get people to buy things for so long, but this is like a new frontier. No one's really thought about how to get them to return it? You can talk to people, big corporations, and they'll tell you. They like, if our salesmen wear a blue shirt, we sell more products. That level of precision, you'll see from keeping your own businesses. But you don't have anybody in the world right now who's saying if my salesman says, or my text messages say, it says like their name in it to get them to come back. They'll have a higher return. That level of precision is not in the returning world yet.
[00:18:47] Georgiana Dearing: Right. I've been in so many discussions this year about the recycle chain. So this is really interesting. So to recap, you either provide the bottles, or in some instances, you can use bottles that a vineyard already has. And the biggest thing is making sure you have the right adhesive on your label. It doesn't really matter what shape or size the label is as long as it comes off easily in the reclamation process.
[00:19:16] Zach Lawless: Correct.
[00:19:17] Georgiana Dearing: Well, that's really exciting. I think I was coming into this maybe slightly skeptical. How different is this from the milkman? But it sounds like a really interesting and exciting model. Right now, you are in New York but I'm speaking to you in Virginia. Where can people find you and learn more about your products?
[00:19:39] Zach Lawless: Yes. So we are exclusively in New York at the moment. We're adding up, going on a hundred retailers in New York. And the idea is that we're going to prove the model out within New York and then expand by the end of the year. So at the end of the year, we'll be moving into California, Washington, Oregon, and then we'll be moving out to Florida, the rest of the East Coast. Texas is the next step. So hopefully by the middle of next year, we'll be in Virginia. That's the goal right now. And then anybody who's in New York can stop by any of our retailers. There is a link on our website to the different retailers that are participating. And then there's also a link on our websites, do any of the wine brands that are participating as well too. So the majority of the wine brands actually sell their direct-to-consumer products in the regional packaging as well too so that if you're located near our retailer, you can return as well.
[00:20:31] Georgiana Dearing: And your website is thegoodgoods.com. Is that correct?
[00:20:36] Zach Lawless: thegoodgoods.co.
[00:20:41] Georgiana Dearing: So we'll have that link in our show notes. And hopefully, by next year's harvest, we'll see some of your bottles in Virginia.
[00:20:48] Zach Lawless: Yes, that's the plan. We'd be thrilled. I'll send you a message as soon as we're in Virginia. If you or any of your listeners are in New York or California or Washington next year, keep an eye out for Good Goods. Visit our website, and see the producers that are jumping on board. We're really excited especially about the early producers that are coming on board. We've got an incredible director of wine who's making sure that all the wines that are in the program are amazing. So not only do you get the benefits of sustainability, but you also get the benefits of getting a great wine. So hopefully you'll be able to look at the Good Goods section in the store, and know that you're getting a quality wine and one that cares about the environmental footprint as well.
[00:21:24] Georgiana Dearing: That's great. Thank you so much for coming and sharing your products with us. Yes, thank
[00:21:29] Zach Lawless: you so much for having me on. I really appreciate it.
[00:21:32] Georgiana Dearing: Thanks for listening. And if you want to learn more about how to grow your own food brand then click on Grow My Brand at vafoodie.com. If you're a lover of local food, then be sure to follow us. We are at @vafoodie on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Join the conversation and tell us about your adventures with good food, good people, and good brands.