Sustainability & Reuse in the Age of Private Brand

Take a look at this fascinating post from one of my favorite blogs the Fresh & Easy Buzz, the blog focuses on Tesco’s US extension Fresh & Easy. The extensive post intelligently discusses sustainability, recycling, reuse and Private Brand.

Private Brand Showcase: Analysis & Opinion
The five primary trends in “green” or sustainable food and grocery packaging today are:

  1. recyclable packaging;
  2. food and grocery packages made from a certain percentage of recyclable materials;
  3. source reduction, using less plastic in plastic bottled water bottles and milk jugs, for example;
  4. packaging that’s biodegradable; and
  5. reusable packaging.

The “green” packaging movement by consumer packaged goods-makers is largely being driven by increasing demands from consumers for more environmentally sustainable food, grocery and consumer product packages, along with the larger sustainability movement as a whole, as well as by simple economics. For example, bottled water companies have recently found that making plastic water bottles thinner by reducing the amount of plastic (source reduction) used to produce the bottle not only results in using less material, it also results in a slightly higher profit margin because of the reduced cost per-bottle because they’re using less plastic.

The least-focused on by of the sustainable packaging trends mentioned above is actually the oldest of the five. It’s a sustainable packaging practice that, although it isn’t at the top of the corporate list or practice to a significant degree by consumers at present (there are numerous grocery packages that can be reused available, even though re-use isn’t the product makers’ design intent) can be called the original “green” packaging “trend.” That practice is: re-use.

Before the throw-away packaging revolution took off in the western industrialized nations in the post war 1950’s and 1960’s, and before Tupperware was the norm, it was common for consumers to reuse various grocery store-bought food and grocery product containers and packages to store food and non-food products in once they were empty.

For example, those popular oval Quaker Oats boxes took on a second life as storage containers for flour and sugar – and kids’ marble collections. Plastic margarine tubs were regularly used for leftovers, to be stored in the refrigerator for the next day. Glass, condiment, baby food and pickle jars were not only regularly reused in the kitchen but also found a home in the garage as containers for nuts, bolts, screws and nails. Glass fruit juice bottles regularly found a second-use as containers for cold water in the refrigerator or to be used to make sun tea. And let’s not forget cigar boxes, which many people even used “back in the day” to store valuable papers in, which no longer exist and are collectors items today.

Re-use qualifies as sustainable because rather than tossing the packages away, they get reused in a myriad of ways. This not only keeps the containers from going into landfills, which occurs regularly even with recycling programs in-place, it also saves the energy required in the recycling process, as well as (if it were more popular today) conserving even more energy because there would be less of a demand for store-bought plastic, glass and other types of containers – including Tupperware, which sense we’ve now mentioned it twice should say we have nothing against.

Re-use is still practiced by some consumers for a variety of reasons – and has been catching on a bit more because of the bad global economy – although its the exception rather than being even close to the norm. For some, doing so is for purely economic reasons; they can’t afford the luxury of store-bought containers made out of plastic or other materials. Other’s do so out of a sense of frugality. This is particularly the case with many people in their 70’s and older who, having gone through the Great Depression, have retained the “waste not, want not” habit they developed in those very lean times. And still for others reuse is motivated by conservation reasons. Lastly, some people reuse because it makes simple good sense to do it.

The concept of re-use within the larger concept of “green” packaging came to mind here at Fresh & Easy Buzz when we recently saw a sustainable packaging private brand prototype for Tesco, designed by Chris Cavill, a graphic designer and graphic design student at Somerset College in the United Kingdom.

As an assignment Cavill was given the brief to “re-design and create innovative and sustainable packaging, using existing in-store products.” Existing in-store products means using a retailer’s existing private brand as the basis for a re-design or new creation.

Chris Cavill chose to take United Kingdom-based Tesco’s existing own brand refrigerated soup line as inspiration but to then design a sub-line of soups, ‘Tesco Sustainable,’ with a focus on the packaging being reusable.

Below is the designer’s reusable package-focused ‘Tesco Sustainable’ private brand soup line for Tesco. The line is a prototype. It’s not available for sale at Tesco stores.

Read the entire post.



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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.