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Consumers are willing to use food refill services

07 September 2019

The rollout of bagless fruit and vegetable aisles, as well as refill stations for goods such as pasta, rice, grains and cereals, is increasing among supermarkets with players such as Morrison’s and Waitrose taking leading roles. These practices are in line with a greater willingness among UK shoppers to buy unpackaged food. 

According to data from GlobalData 71.3% of UK consumers are interested in using these services.  

Hannah Thomson, retail analyst at GlobalData, said: “Amid growing awareness of the harmful effects of single-use plastics on the environment, retailers are keen to prove that they are acting responsibly and responding to consumers’ concerns. After initial set-up costs, retailers could benefit from selling certain goods unpackaged and removing packaging costs. Waitrose has said that its ‘Unpacked’ trial resulted in cost savings from goods arriving instore in re-usable containers.”

GlobalData’s monthly survey of 2,000 UK respondents found that 44.1% of 16-24 year olds who had purchased food and grocery products in July had used a refill station in the last 12 months, compared with 35.0% of 25-34 year-olds and just 25.4% of 35-44 year-olds.

Of the consumers who said they would not use a refill shop, the main reason cited was an unwillingness to take containers to a store. The solution could be to provide shoppers with recyclable paper bags or to offer a discount as an incentive for bringing re-usable containers, as is now common in coffee chains for customers with re-usable cups. Such a discount could also help convince the 19.2% of consumers who believe it would be more expensive to buy goods unpackaged.

Thomson continued: “Encouragingly for retailers, the least-cited reason for not wishing to buy unpackaged items is a preference for branded products. This leaves retailers free to switch suppliers in search of the best margins and should give them the confidence to use suppliers which are able to deliver in bulk instead of in packaging, and not worry about customers’ brand loyalty.”

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