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Unilever steps up in-store refillable packaging trials

Gaelle Walker
17 June 2021

Beauty shoppers in selected Asda and Co-op stores will be able to trial a series of new in-store refillable packaging solutions from the Simple, Radox and Alberto Balsam beauty brands, following Unilever’s scaling-up of its refillable packaging trials.

Part of a series of new ‘test and learn’ trials to be rolled out this year, Unilever’s new ‘return on the go’ refill trial will allow shoppers looking for a quicker “grab and go” refill solution to pick up a pre-filled reusable stainless-steel bottle directly from the shelf and return it for cleaning once used.

The pre-filled bottles will be available in-aisle, testing if integrating refillable products into usual shopping habits will increase uptake.

Stores will also continue to test ‘refill on the go’, where customers can purchase and refill their own re-useable stainless-steel bottles at standalone refill stations.

By testing different refill models, different store formats and in-store locations, Unilever hopes that the trials will help it glean a deeper understanding of consumer habits when using refillable products.

The latest development follows the successful launch of Unilever’s refill trial in Asda’s sustainability store in Leeds last year.

The expanded trials are taking place in seven Asda stores across the country and a number of Co-op convenience stores, with more to be added later in the year.

Unilever has also extended its partnership with the Return Refill Repeat program, in order to fulfill the circular process required to maintain the refill stations and collect, clean and return the pre-filled bottles once used.

Commenting on the development, Sebastian Munden, Unilever UK & Ireland general manager and executive vice-president, said: “To tackle plastic pollution with the speed and urgency needed, we are committed to creating scalable solutions which make it as easy as possible for people to make sustainable choices.

“We believe refills could be a gamechanger in our ambitions to halve our use of virgin plastic by 2025, however unlocking the full potential of the reuse economy would require a significant shift in how people shop.

“Using our well-known and trusted brands and working closely with retailers, we are testing different refill models on a large scale in order to continue to build our understanding of how to bring about a significant change most effectively.”

Jo-Anne Chidley, co-founder of Return Refill Repeat added: “Our goal is to democratise the circular economy, using Cradle to Cradle design, to work with businesses like Unilever to give consumers access to more sustainable products.

“By designing packaging to be circular and smart alongside advanced Refill and Return Stations, we are making it accessible for consumers to reduce their plastic consumption, track their impact, and change their behaviour from one of consuming packaging to reusing it.”

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