Are refillable containers the next big CPG thing?
Grocery stores are finding that consumer packaged goods (CPG) sold in refillable containers are proving, in some cases, to be even more popular than their traditional disposable alternatives.
Asda in the UK announced it is expanding a successful pilot program that tested consumers’ responses to placing popular CPG staples, such as tea, Kellogg’s cereals, Quaker Oats, laundry detergent and shower gel, in refillable containers.
In the initial phase of the pilot, which launched in October, Asda found that customers not only traveled to its stores from outside their marketing areas to shop for the refillable items, they also purchased some products at a greater rate than their packaged counterparts.
Other UK-based retailers including Morrisons, Marks & Spencer and Tesco have all experimented with some variety of refillable offering. Sainsbury’s is looking at introducing one.
The refillable staple shopping trend is sweeping UK grocery at a time when environmental sustainability is likewise popular among consumers in the U.S. Among the environmental pain points in the grocery world is the use of excessive packaging for CPG goods as well as e-commerce delivery boxes, something customers have become acutely aware of since e-grocery experienced an unprecedented rate of adoption during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
CPG brands and grocers big and small stateside have attempted to address these concerns in recent years.
In a 2019 survey, 85 percent of CPG brand manufacturers reported investing funds toward making packaging more recyclable.
A startup called Zero Grocery in Berkeley, CA is attempting to solve the problems of both CPG packaging and delivery boxes in one swoop by delivering products in jars and other reusable containers.
Others in the space are trying similar approaches on a larger scale. A “circular delivery” startup called Loop has partnered with Kroger, Walgreens and others to sell and deliver goods in reusable packaging.
The pandemic, however, briefly derailed progress in reducing packaging waste in the U.S. Due to concerns early on over potential COVID-19 contamination via fomite (surface contact), many municipalities rolled back bans on single-use plastic bags grocery bags.
- Asda Opens New Sustainability Store – Asda blog
- Refillable revolution – UK supermarket Asda expands reuse scheme – Reuters
- CPG companies spending more to use less packaging – RetailWire
- Will online delivery go more eco-friendly post-pandemic – RetailWire
- Will climate action become less of a priority for retail post-pandemic – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see in-store refills of popular CPG products catching on in the U.S.? What do you see as the opportunities and challenges around such an introduction?