Unilever has announced the expansion of its refillable packaging trials across the UK, including the placement of its first refill stations at selected Asda supermarket and Co-op convenience stores.
Following the successful trial in Asda’s sustainability store in Leeds last year, Unilever’s said that its current initiative will be the 'first of its kind at this scale in the UK', the company said.
'With the aim of gaining a deeper understanding of the likelihood and habits of consumers using refillable and reusable packaging, the trials will test different refill models, different store formats and in-store locations as well as testing the different shopper experiences that could enable long-term use of refillable products.'
The company's announcement coincided with World Refill Day (16 June).
Unilever said that some of its best-known brands, including Persil, Simple, Radox and Alberto Balsam, are to be made available in reusable stainless-steel bottles in selected Asda and Co-op stores by the end of this year.
The company is hoping to use the trial process to test different refill models, store formats and locations in-store, as well as how well consumers embrace the new medium.
Recently, Unilever-commissioned research found that 94% of UK consumers are more likely to invest in refills rather than buy new products in-store, if such facilities were available, while 89% said that they would be likely to buy a product if its packaging can be reused.
Elsewhere, close to a fifth of shoppers (18%) wanted a sealed product option, and to be able to return empty bottles to stores (16%).
Last week, the group announced that it was trialling a new paper-based detergent bottle.
“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," commented Sebastian Munden, Unilever UK & Ireland general manager.
"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.”
The trial will include two different refill models: 'Refill on the go', featuring standalone refill machines and a selection of products in re-useable stainless-steel bottles, and 'Return on the go', where re-usable bottles are pre-filled, offering a quicker 'grab and go' experience.