The Refill Coalition

Source: GoUnpackaged

The Refill Coalition has confirmed to The Grocer that the trial will expand within the next ‘six months’

Aldi is to roll out the standardised refill solution developed by The Refill Coalition into more of its stores, The Grocer has been told.

The trial launched in a single Aldi store in Solihull in October last year and will now be expanded to a “small number” of Aldi stores within the next “six months”, The Refill Coalition has confirmed. The rollout will coincide with the planned launch of a home delivery version of the scheme with Ocado later this year. It comes after customers had responded well to the technology, which is used to sell cereal at the single-store site.

The expansion into more Aldi stores is seen as a significant milestone by the coalition as to the initial success of the trial and viability of the system. When the working group – which currently includes Aldi, consultancy GoUnpackaged, Chep and Ocado – was formed in 2022, it was hailed as the industry’s best chance to create a standardised end-to-end refill solution.

However, the development of the solution has been held up by delays. The Refill Coalition has also seen founding member retailers Morrisons, M&S and Waitrose, along with Lidl and Sainsbury’s, leave the partnership, amid a wider shift in government policy away from ‘green’ solutions during the cost of living crisis.

The solution launched into Aldi takes the form of a standardised vessel that arrives at stores pre-filled, where it is then added to dispensers on the shop floor. Customers have the choice of either filling a paper bag, or the “preferred” option of buying their own container from Aldi, or bringing one from home.

Aldi Refill technology Solihull

Source: The Grocer

The system launched in Aldi’s Solihull store in October 2023

When empty, the vessels – which have an estimated lifecycle of at least 60 uses – are removed from the dispenser, collected and thoroughly cleaned by Chep, before being sent back to food manufacturers for refilling and distribution back to stores.

Last week, The Refill Coalition demonstrated the solution to “most of the major UK supermarkets”, as well as representatives from NGOs, brands and industry groups including Wrap. It is understood these were purely for demonstration purposes at this stage.

Rollout is a ‘thumbs up’ for refill

The fact that a retailer had decided to roll out the scheme further was a “thumbs up”, Helen Clements, director at GoUnpackaged, told The Grocer. Initial sales had “exceeded” expectations in store, and feedback from Aldi store staff had been positive, Clements said. Importantly, there had been no reports of equipment failure, she said.

“That is massive because typically in these refill trials equipment fails. And if the equipment isn’t working for the day, customers will be unlikely to make the effort again.”

Clements conceded that the initial timeline to launch a store trial had been “very optimistic” given the complexity of four separate manufacturers being involved in the initial design and manufacture of the solution.

The outbreak of the Ukraine war had then created further delays by creating a shortage of materials and microchips. Now that the manufacturing, cleaning and logistics processes had been developed, there was capability for the solution to “run at scale”.