Aldi stores and online shopping offer a refillable option for dry goods
Author: Kathryn Young / Date: 20 November 2023
In an effort to cut down on single-use plastics, the UK Refill Coalition, which is made up of GoUnpackaged, Aldi UK, Ocado Retail, and CHEP, is testing an in-store refill system for dry products at Aldi's Solihull store and online.
The answer lies in a reusable bulk container made to provide replacements in large quantities for essential food items like pasta and cereal, as well as cleaning, personal hygiene, and other household supplies. It is therefore intended to lower the cost of the items by eliminating single-use packaging and increasing productivity.
The bulk dispensers of the present will be replaced with reusable containers that may be filled and transferred with the product. Refill stations located within stores carry these containers. It is emphasised to customers that they should bring their own containers, which will be filled by a weighing device. Each reusable container is expected to replace twenty-four single-use plastic bags.
The supplier fills the consumer-sized online vessel in the interim, and customers receive it through their Ocado orders. The containers are supposed to replace five single-use plastic packets and may be returned to the Ocado driver after use.
It appears that any supplier or retailer can use the technology to reduce expenses and food waste while expanding the number of locations that can offer refills. With 67% to 85% of UK consumers allegedly eager to test refillables in a mainstream supermarket and 73% opting in while online shopping, it is hoped that this will increase consumer accessibility to refillable packaging and speed up the retail industry’s adoption of refills.
The Coalition works together with Berry Global, DIGI, Eden and Trade Fixtures to design new equipment for the solution, which is supported by UKRI’s Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge fund, which is delivered by Innovate UK. If the trial is satisfactory, the Coalition plans to install refill stations throughout its retail and online activities.
According to the Coalition, if every UK home replaced one item per week, over 1.4 billion pieces of single-use packaging could be avoided each year.
In the first half of 2024, peers in the industry will be able to visit the live solution and learn everything about the ‘behind the scenes’ logistical advancements for in-store and online retail.
“We’re delighted to be launching this new refill solution—a system we’re proud to have worked on for the past three years to bring to market—first into Aldi, with Ocado Retail’s online launch following early next year,” says a joint statement from the Refill Coalition. Our shared goal as a Coalition is to reduce the use of single-use plastic packaging, and we think that the solution we have created offers a historic chance for us to revolutionise the way refills are marketed, which we know can have a big impact on the reduction of single-use plastic packaging.
“We are pleased to have installed the first in-store refill solution as part of the Refill Coalition in our Solihull store,” says Luke Emery, director of Plastics and Packaging at Aldi. Encouraging our customers to choose unpackaged products is a crucial component of our ongoing efforts to reduce the use of single-use plastics and packaging.
“We are happy to collaborate with our industry colleagues in the Coalition to reduce single-use plastic packaging,” said Ocado Retail’s director of Own-Brand, Technical, and Sustainability Rachel Cox-Reynolds. “We’re pleased that Ocado will spearhead the idea of online deliveries in the coming year, enabling consumers to conveniently refill daily necessities from their doorsteps.”
The Refill Coalition’s general manager for Northern Europe, Alasdair Hamblin, says, “I am thrilled to see our collective vision brought to life with the launch of this trial.” Our share and reuse circular economy strategy is the cornerstone of CHEP’s operations.
“This pilot programme is a priceless chance to work together and test that model in a different setting. In collaboration with our partners, we are dedicated to upending industry norms, decreasing single-use plastic packaging, and creating a regenerative supply chain that allows us to move more goods with less resources in the sake of a better future.
“We’re so proud to have convened the Coalition and brought a brand-new solution to market that has the potential for adoption across a global supply chain,” states GoUnpackaged director Catherine Conway. “The Coalition has worked tirelessly since 2020, and overcome numerous obstacles, to reach this go live point. An industry-wide approach will lead to a refill system that works for everyone in the supply chain and make refilling easier for shoppers.”
“We are delighted to be supporting this collaborative, full supply chain initiative that is working to develop a complete solution for refill in the grocery sector,” says Paul Davidson, director of the Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge, in closing. The Refill Coalition is making a significant contribution to the mainstreaming of refill and providing retailers and consumers with a simple and convenient refill solution to help reduce single-use packaging with the introduction of Aldi UK’s first in-store trial and more to follow.
Next year, Ocado will provide a bulk home delivery refill solution and a tareless weighing system and liquids dispense, which will eliminate the need for customers to weigh their own containers before refilling.
In an effort to create an end-to-end refill solution and expand beyond the individual merchant refill stations now in use, Aldi joined the Refill Coalition early this year. Nestlé’s Jodie Roussell and Antje Shaw also discussed the company’s experience with trials and pilots of refillable and reusable packaging with Packaging Europe, offering their best advice for making these initiatives successful.