Refillable revolution – UK supermarket Asda expands reuse scheme



© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A general view shows the UK supermarket Asda, as the store launches a new sustainability strategy, in Leeds, Britain, October 19, 2020. REUTERS/Molly Darlington

By James Davey

LONDON (Reuters) – British supermarket group Asda is to extend its trial of a refill scheme that allows shoppers to replenish their own containers after sales of several products in an initial pilot store outsold packaged alternatives, it said on Wednesday.

Asda, Britain’s third-biggest grocer by sales after market leader Tesco (LON:) and Sainsbury’s, said it would expand its refill proposition to four more stores by the end of the year, having launched the concept last year at its store in Middleton, Leeds, northern England.

Britons have become increasingly aware of the amount of plastic they use in recent years, with television documentaries such as David Attenborough’s “Blue Planet II” particularly highlighting the dangers of plastic pollution to marine life.

In response supermarket chains and consumer goods groups are increasingly testing refills as part of a drive to cut single-use plastics.

Earlier, this month Marks & Spencer extended its packaging-free refillable grocery concept “Fill Your Own” to 11 stores. Waitrose sells refillables in four stores.

Morrisons has been trialing refills for ambient and frozen products in three stores since 2019. A spokesperson for the chain said it was looking at how to bring refills to more stores, whilst thinking about how to make the format COVID secure.

Last year Tesco started trialing reusable containers for its online groceries service, while Sainsbury’s is looking at a variety of options for refillable stations.

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Asda’s Middleton store trial launched with 30 household staples sold in refillable format, including Unilever (LON:)’s PG Tips tea bags, Persil laundry detergent and Radox shower gel; along with Kellogg’s cereals and PepsiCo (NASDAQ:)’s Quaker Oats.

The Middleton store is Unilever’s biggest refill trial in Europe.

“The rollout follows the successful launch of the Middleton refill zone last October, with several products outstripping packaged sales and many customers travelling from outside the local area to shop sustainably,” said Susan Thomas, Asda’s director of commercial sustainability.

The four additional stores will feature an increased range of core products and partnerships with household brands including Yorkshire Tea, an increased range of Kellogg’s cereals, new own-label and Nestle cereals, Napolina pasta, and Tilda rice alongside new “prefilled” trials of Radox and Persil that will utilise stainless steel reusable bottles.

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