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04/28/2022

A Closer Look at Kroger’s Growing Reusable Packaging Program

Jacqueline Barba
Digital Editor
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Kroger recently launched an assortment of products in reusable packaging in select U.S. stores via its partnership with circular packaging firm Loop. The debut marks an important expansion in the grocery retailer's larger sustainability efforts and Loop's first in-store launch.

The partners debuted an in-store pilot in the U.S. at 25 Kroger-owned Fred Meyer stores in Portland, Oregon, and offers a variety of products to customers in reusable packaging, including products from leading national brands and  Kroger’s Simple Truth private label.

Here's how the Loop partnership works: Developed by circular reuse platform TerraCycle, Loop recovers and sanitizes reusable packaging for recirculation with new products. Subscribers pay a deposit ranging from 15 cents for a glass beverage bottle to $10 for a stainless-steel container of disinfecting wipes.

Participating manufacturers introduce products that employ reusable packaging. These products are placed in a designated Loop section of participating retail stores, which serve as the collection site for end users to return the packaging when the contents are consumed.

In 2021, Loop revealed its global subscriber network had grown from about a dozen participating companies worldwide in 2020 to 150 in 2022. In addition to Kroger, both independent brands and other packaging end users including Nestle are expanding their reusable packaging options for their part in the program.

While reuse systems are well-established for packaging products such as pallets and drums that are typically handled by nonconsumer end users, reusable packaging is also increasingly interesting in consumer markets due to the potential sustainability benefits, according to a news release from The Freedonia Group, an international industrial research company and division of Marketresearch.com.

Based on the company’s collection of packaging studies, the recent release noted:

  • According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, converting 20% of global plastic packaging into reusable packaging represents a $10 billion business opportunity.
  • When end users reuse the packaging as intended, these items are less likely to enter solid waste streams (whether recycling or composting facilities, or the landfill), resulting in a reduction of total packaging waste.
  • In addition, recirculated packaging reduces the overall material requirements of packaging production as fewer new products are needed.

While recirculated packaging is most common in food and beverage categories, it is also seeing increased use in personal care and household items, as well as in e-commerce, according to the release. For instance, in 2021, major shipping concerns including FedEx Express and InPost, introduced reusable e-commerce packaging solutions across multiple European markets that could translate to the U.S. market.

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In addition to its Kroger partnership, Loop is also launching its products in select Duane Reade stores, owned by Walgreens Boots Alliance, in the greater New York metro area later this year. 

“Walgreens is excited about this opportunity to help consumers purchase sustainably packaged products and contribute to a healthier planet," Lauren Brindley, Walgreens group vice president of beauty and personal care, said in a Loop news release. "Innovative collaborations with partners like Loop are critical to solving the complex issue of reducing single-use plastics. Our customers look to us to innovate so that together we can reduce waste and increase re-use.”

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