Asda to pilot packaging-free, refillable versions of popular groceries

Pictured: The refill station for bulk goods that will be installed for the trials. Image: Asda

Under the trial, own-brand Asda products including coffee, rice and pasta will be offered to shoppers at the chain’s Middleton store in Leeds.

Branded groceries, including Kellogg’s cereals and Unilever’s PG Tips tea, will also be available in refillable formats. Shoppers will be encouraged to bring their own reusable containers and the store will stock a range of reusables for those who need them to purchase.

Elsewhere, plastic packaging will be removed from fresh flowers and from certain lines of produce, such as cucumbers and mushrooms. Asda will ask for customer feedback and track metrics such as waste and sales in order to determine how successful these models are in practice.

All of the new initiatives will be trialled at the Middleton store for a minimum of three months. Data collected during the trials will help the supermarket’s board decide whether to roll any of the initiatives out further, adjust them for retrials or scrap them.

Asda’s chief executive Roger Burnley said the changes to the store will enable the company to “test and learn” in real-time, as it strives to reduce the amount of plastic packaging it uses by 15%, by weight, by February 2021.

“We’re on an ongoing quest to remove and reduce the amount of plastic in our business – and to find new ways to help our customers to reuse and refill our products,” Burnley said.

“It’s a journey we can’t go on alone, which is why we invited our suppliers to innovate with us and I’m delighted that household names like Kellogg’s and Unilever have joined us in testing new ideas and approaches to sustainability at our Middleton store.”

Refill revolution

Given that only 9% of all plastic ever made has been recycled – and with 82% of UK shoppers now stating that the amount of plastic packaging produced by companies needs to be “drastically reduced” – Asda is not alone in incorporating refill and reuse models into its plastics strategy.

Waitrose & Partners’ ‘Unpacked’ scheme, launched last year, was so well-received by shoppers that it was rolled out ahead of schedule. The format offers more than 200 packaging-free products, priced by weight at parity with their pre-packaged counterparts.

Similarly, smaller-scale refill offerings are receiving positive initial feedback at retailers including Marks & Spencer and The Body Shop. As a result, the likes of Sainsbury’s and Tesco are exploring refillable products for future launches.

Away from bricks-and-mortar retail, TerraCycle’s Loop platform, whereby consumer goods brands provide product refills through internet sales while retaining ownership of their reusable packaging, is growing at a rate of one brand per day. The platform first launched in Paris in May 2019, and subsequently went live in the US. Launches in the UK, Canada, Japan and Germany are all expected this year.

edie’s Mission Possible Plastics Week: How to get involved 

Running from 13-17 January, edie’s Mission Possible Plastics Week includes exclusive interviews, podcasts, reports, webinars and in-depth feature articles – all dedicated to turning the tide on single-use plastics. 

You can find a full list of the exclusive content which edie will be bringing you as part of the campaign, run in association withe Nestle, by clicking here.

Sarah George

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