Behind the Counter: Refill Nation Proves That Waste-Free Shopping is the Future of Retail

We are huge fans of sustainability, and firmly believe that environment-friendly and socially-responsible businesses will thrive in the years to come. That’s why we’re thrilled to put the spotlight on Refill Nation

Refill Nation carries a wide range of pantry staples, including nuts, flour, spices, protein powders, and a whole lot more. What makes its approach interesting is the fact that Refill Nation promotes “waste-free shopping” by encouraging its customers to bring their own containers or use the store’s brown paper bags. 

Since its opening, Refill Nation has helped save more than 105,000 pieces of plastic packaging from hitting New Zealand’s environment and landfills. Needless to say, we’re super impressed with the company’s commitment to evolving consumers’ shopping habits for the good of the planet. 

Beyond sustainability, Refill Nation also creates an incredible shopping experience that continuously drives loyalty among its customers. 

We could go on about how remarkable Refill Nation is, but we figured it’s best to let the company’s founder, Jackson Mulligan, to do the talking. 

Let’s dive in!

1. Tell us a bit about how Refill Nation got started. What’s the story behind the business?

Refill Nation is a bulk wholefoods refill store. Our aim is to make zero-waste shopping as easy and enjoyable as possible. People can bring their own reusable containers in-store and fill up on our awesome range of organic and non-organic pantry staples, such as flour, nuts, spices, to protein powders, pet foods, eco cleaning products, grind-your-own coffee and peanut butter. Everything is paid for by weight.

Like many Kiwis, we’ve had to wake up to the shocking amounts of waste (mostly single-use plastics) that are entering our environment and landfills. I discovered a growing number of people – particularly in our West Auckland community – that also wanted to do better, but there just wasn’t the choice. To truly drive change, we need refillable and reusable alternatives – of quality – that are affordable for everyday shoppers. 

So this gave me the added push to leave my finance job and build Refill Nation. Since opening, our Refillers have helped us save over an estimated 105,000 pieces of plastic packaging from entering our environment and landfill. We’re stoked.

Refill Nation aims to be the shopping experience of the future for Kiwi households in a bid to help the planet and the next generation.

2. What are the unique things about your store that customers love? How do you keep people coming back?

We’ve definitely got our super popular products, like grind-your-own peanut butter, kombucha on tap, all-natural pet foods and treats, and our sell-out favorite: coconut rough.

But I think what makes people come back time and time again is the one-on-one relationship we can have with them. We love getting to know everybody, and being part of their efforts to reduce waste is meaningful. We swap recipes, advice, and knowledge, helping people to define what zero-waste living looks like for them in the context of their circumstances and budget. 

Because we believe it’s not about getting a few people to do zero-waste perfectly; it’s better we get everyone doing it imperfectly.

The biggest compliment is seeing more and more people bring their family and friends to meet us, and show them the store – we feel like a small part of what makes people proud to live in our community.

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