Co-op partners with Unilever to launch packaging trial for shoppers to refill and reuse conveniently

Unilever and Co-op have partnered together to launch two refill packaging store trials, with the aim of gaining a deeper understanding of consumer behaviour towards refillable and reusable packaging in a convenience environment – the move is Unilever’s first within a convenience store.

The trial will test two refill models: ‘Refill on the go’ and ‘Return on the go’ and, some of Unilever’s best-known brands: Persil; Simple; Radox and Alberto Balsam, will be available in reusable stainless-steel bottles, providing shoppers with a quick and easy option to cut plastic consumption.

Unilever’s ‘return on the go’ scheme – which is being trialled near Wolverhampton – allows customers to conveniently pick up pre-filled stainless-steel bottles and return in-store once used, while the ‘refill on the go’ approach – trialled in a larger Co-op store in West Yorkshire – allows customers to purchase and refill re-useable stainless-steel bottles using a standalone refill machine in-store.

Designed to gain a deeper understanding of consumer behaviour towards refillable and reusable packaging, the trial – which tests different refill models, store formats and locations – is now available in Co-op’s convenience store in Wolverhampton Rd, Codsall, and, will extend to the Co-op store in Marsh, Huddersfield, later this month (November).

Co-op’s Head of Format Development, Ian McCutcheon, said: “We are continually working to develop new ways to provide added services and choice conveniently. The refillable packaging trials with Unilever are designed to test and, learn from consumer behaviour, while providing easy and quick ways for shoppers to cut their plastic consumption. We are facing into a climate and environmental crisis, and we need to act now to support consumers in making ethical purchasing decisions – by making it easier for shoppers to make small changes to their lives, together, we can make a big difference to our environment.”

On the expansion of their refill trials, Unilever UK & Ireland General Manager and Executive Vice-President, Sebastian Munden, said: “Our trials with Co-op include our first test of refillable products in a smaller convenience store setting, helping us to further build our understanding of how refills work in different store sizes, locations and shopping missions. There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ for reuse and refill. Offering a range of our trusted brands and products in refillable stainless steels bottles, we continue to test different models, store formats and locations across the UK to see how shoppers respond, what works best, and what we need to adapt and change. Working closely with partners like Co-op, we can help people to make more sustainable choices every day and reduce the single use of virgin plastic with the speed and urgency needed.”

Earlier this year, Co-op announced its 10-point climate change action plan where the retailer pledged to radically reduce the carbon that comes from its products and operations, to become a Net Zero business by 2040 and, including selling fully carbon neutral own-brand food and drink by 2025.

The Co-op already sources 100% renewable electricity to run its stores, the convenience retailer also worked to end the price disparity of vegan food by price-matching its plant-based range, GRO, to meat and dairy equivalents in store.

Co-op has also launched an in-store soft plastic recycling scheme for packaging which is unlikely to be collected by local councils kerbside collection, meaning all Co-op own brand food packaging is recyclable.

To combat food waste, Co-op operates a number of initiatives including its own food redistribution programme, Food Share, which shares food with local community organisations. Additionally, Co-op recently announced its partnership with environmental charity Hubbub to fast-track the expansion of community fridges across the UK.

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