Plastic-Free Movement Takes on Retail

This guest post comes from Kelly Thompson Kell, North American Market Strategy Director for Trace One.

Plastic can affect grocers’ profitability, as consumers and the media have grown more aware of – and concerned about – the sector’s reliance on plastic, its environmental harm, and health and safety risks. For instance, Greenpeace reports 12 million tons of plastic enter our oceans annually.

Grocers now see the business imperative to take this issue seriously. A recent survey found a third of U.S. consumers and 52% of those in the U.K. support a tax on all plastic food packaging. Nielsen found a corporate commitment to sustainability can influence product purchases for 45% of consumers. In addition, Millennials and Gen Z reward companies espousing strong sustainability programs.

Retail companies rethink plastic
Many grocery retailers charge consumers for plastic bags at the checkout. By 2025, Tesco wants all its product packaging to be recyclable or compostable, and to reduce its total packaging weight by half the 2007 amount. Dutch supermarket Ekoplaza launched Europe’s first plastic-free supermarket aisle and UK grocery discounter Iceland committed to eliminating plastic packaging. Meanwhile, Procter & Gamble launched the Fairy Ocean Plastic bottle made entirely from post-consumer recycled plastic and ocean plastic.

Stakeholders speak up
This year the American Journal of Pediatrics warned that plastics can enter foods and interfere with the body’s natural hormones, affecting long-term growth and development. Municipalities like San Francisco, Montreal and New York state banned single-use plastic bags at point of sale. Investors even ask food supplier to reveal how much plastic packaging they use each year.

Practical next steps
Amid the public backlash against plastic, companies need to analyze their private brand assortment data to pinpoint opportunities to reduce plastic. Sustainable alternatives include bioplastics, edible plastics, cardboard, paper, glass and aluminum. In addition, more companies are collaborating with new retail partners to reduce dependence on plastics.

Kelly Thompson Kell
North American Market Strategy Director, Trace One

Kelly is a thought leader in the areas of food product development, grocery technology strategy and supplier-retailer collaboration. Her 13 years of internal consulting, strategy engagement, and project leadership within the technology, retail, and CPG industries allow her to bring first-hand experience to the table.

Given her involvement in private label grocery sourcing at Target Corporation and her background as a food scientist and business consultant at Nestle, Kelly sees a strong need to improve communication between grocers and suppliers during the product development process.

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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.