M&S extends packaging-free refillable grocery trial

Marks & Spencer (M&S) is extending a refillable trial to a second store as more consumers look to reduce the plastic in their grocery shopping.

The announcement comes as the retailer releases new research revealing that over 75% of consumers consciously trying to reduce their use of plastic packaging.

Refillable groceries are an increasingly popular solution to support this aim, with two thirds of consumers more likely to consider using them now compared to this time last year and around one in four shoppers actively seeking retailers that offer this service.

The findings follow the launch of M&S Food’s first Fill Your Own trial in mid-December at its Hedge End Retail Park store in Southampton. The trial offers over 44 lines of packaging-free cupboard essentials including popular cereals, pasta, rice, lentils, confectionery, coffee, dried fruits and nuts.

The research findings highlight that the main barrier to shopping refill and unpackaged groceries is the challenge of finding retailers that offer this service (38%). This is followed by the need to carry containers – highlighted by one in five (18%) – and the perception that unpackaged seems more expensive than packaged alternatives (14%).

M&S’ Fill Your Own trial aims to address some of these challenges, with all products offering even better value per gram than the packaged alternatives.

The retailer is now extending the trial to a second store in Manchester City Centre this month as it looks to test the refill concept across different formats and locations.

To help customers adapt to the new shopping concept, it is providing free, widely recyclable paper bags for customers without containers to hand and colleagues are available to guide them on filling and weighing the products.

However, behaviour change is already starting to take place as customers are increasingly bringing in their own containers or purchasing one from M&S’ range.

Sales of M&S’ reusable storage containers have increased by 38% at the Hedge End store since the trial launched and by 10% across all M&S stores compared to last year.

Since the trial launched two months ago, 25 out of the 44 Fill Your Own products are selling higher volumes than the packaged alternatives, with customers buying over 2,600kg of product to date.

The bestselling products include M&S’s Triple Chocolate Crunch cereal, Whole Scottish Porridge Oats, Basmati Rice, Milk Chocolate Raisins, Single Origin Brazil Coffee and Fiorelli Pasta.

“Our Fill Your Own concept is one area we’re focusing on as part of our action to reduce plastic packaging and support our customers to reuse and recycle,” said Paul Willgoss, Director of Food Technology at M&S.

“As a completely new way of shopping, we’re keen to better understand refill across the entire store process from behind the scenes operations to working together with our customers to encourage behaviour change.”

M&S said it will continue testing the refill concept at its Hedge End and Manchester City Centre stores before considering a wider roll-out plan for the future.