Over the last few years, convenience retailers have shown increasing levels of interest in installing packaging-free refill stations. But faced with the coronavirus pandemic, any potential rollout of such figures suddenly became low priority, reports The Grocer.
Concerns about cross-contamination pulled the plug on progress when the UK’s first lockdown came into effect in March last year. However, the tide could be turning.
According to Gary Kemp, co-founder of Zero Waste Refill Hub, some retailers have renewed interest in packaging-free features. Not only has Kemp reported a rise in the number of leading retailers that have installed the stations in recent months, he has also seen a 60% increase in enquiries from convenience retailers.
He puts this down to retailers looking for new opportunities to enhance the customer experience: “When we came out of the initial lockdown, it gave retailers confidence to keep the momentum going.”
He continued: “Retailers are planning the future of their stores, and the switched-on retailers are always looking to add to their business.”
Two stores that have recently installed packaging-free dispensing stations are Nisa retailers Filco Supermarkets in South Wales and LA Foods in Edgware.
Speaking about the decision, Filco’s managing director Matthew Hunt said: “This is part of our sustainability drive and the overall package we’re trying to promote.” Meanwhile, LA Foods has described its new hub as a “real talking point” for customers.
Kemp explains that retailers are primarily expressing interest in dispenser stations rather than scoop bins as they offer less risk of cross-contamination and traceability issues.
Another retailer to have taken the plunge into packaging-free stations at three of its sites is the Heart of England Co-op.
Heart of England Co-op food general manager Steve Browne said that despite some concerns about usage during the pandemic, the stations are being used well and sanitation units are helping boost customer confidence.
Browne also recognises the role packaging-free stations play in the shift towards greener retail solutions and added value: “Not only do these fit within our desire to drive a more sustainable future, which is one of our operating mantras, but these are also useful during a recession as customers can buy as much or as little as they like.”
The past 12 months have created a number of challenges in the move towards a more sustainable future. However, it’s essential that brands stay focused on the issue and embed it into business practices.
At Delta, we can help you embed sustainable practices into your communications. We’re also committed to improving our own sustainability credentials. From 100% green electricity and eco-friendly printing presses, we’re always seeking out sustainable alternatives.
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