Packaging-free in AH: get used to it, maybe people will recycle more

Packaging-free in AH: get used to it, maybe people will recycle more

Most of Albert Heijn XL’s customers at Argonautenweg in Rotterdam still have to get used to the fact that they use organic basmati rice, high quality espresso beans, jasmine tea and oat flakes. can benefit

Despite the fact that it is Saturday at the beginning of the afternoon, it is not stormy yet, but there are already some customers excited to start.

Reusable packaging

You can buy plastic storage boxes and bags right away, in two different sizes, you can put them in the dishwasher or in the washing machine. You can then use it multiple times.

One customer says in passing that it would be difficult for him to bring your own packaging, “otherwise you have to buy jars or bags every time.”

But it is noticeable that many customers who got their own items from 72 distributors, containing 68 different products, brought their own packaging from home.

utensils and boxes from home

A couple uses no less than a dozen glass jars for this, of course from Pieter Pot, the company that makes groceries at home without packaging. They are steadily working through their shopping list. They think it’s a good initiative for Albert Hein to come up with this.

Another client, Loeke, read about Albert Heijn’s trial in various media. Armed with a supply case with cats playing on it, she comes to the store to peck a penne rigate, among other things, but that’s no easy feat.

The top row of dispensers hang too high for people who are not very tall which is very annoying because with some dispensers you have to fumble with a lever, because food doesn’t always come out of the dispensers easily. Nevertheless, she is pleased with the six-meter-high wall with water dispensers.

Live more consciously

“A very impressive initiative,” says independent retail consultant Eelco Hos. “During the coronavirus pandemic, consumers have realized that we need to be more aware of our planet, and Albert Heijn is now very clearly committed to that,” said Rene Emmonds, who is involved in retail at research agency IRI.

It also notes the rapid growth of the Pieter Pot, which delivers groceries at home, among other things, in keeping jars.

25% less packaging

“Albert Heijn shows that they are serious when it comes to reducing the amount of packaging material,” adds Hoss. The supermarket chain wants to use 20 million kilograms less packaging material by 2025 than it did in 2017.

This is a 25 percent decrease. Due to other measures, consumption is already 9 million kilograms less than it was five years ago, according to spokesperson Anushka Aspslag.

“Ultimately, you’d prefer customers to bring their own packaging, rather than buying a reusable jar or jar at the store, which is more sustainable,” says Assplag.


But it concerns only 70 unpackaged products, out of a total of 22,000 products, in this large supermarket, the nuances. Emonds anticipates that packaging-free products will be limited to private labels. “Brand manufacturers will miss the calling capabilities on the packaging.”

Moreover, you can’t offer packaging-free items everywhere, he thinks. “It shouldn’t be a mess with wine, beer or olive oil, for example, that’s a problem,” Hoss adds.

However, he believes Albert Heijn’s customers may start recycling more at home as a result of the initiative.

You can also get the products from prepackaged distributors, but customers now have a choice. Hoss believes that packaging-free shopping is not for the average consumer right now. “But as before with vegan and organic foods, you have a cutting edge and without these kinds of initiatives you won’t be able to move forward.”

“The impact of production and transportation on the environment is greater”

Sustainability expert Mariska Justra of Milieu Centraal takes a positive view of Albert Heijn’s initiative. “If you buy reusable packaging instead of disposable packaging, it gives consumers a good idea of ​​how things work differently,” she says.

But she notes that the impact of packaging is only 10 percent of the product’s total environmental impact. Joustra says production and transportation account for about 75 percent, so eliminating food has a pretty big impact.

The use of reusable packaging can also raise consumers’ awareness of the impact of other aspects of their lives on the environment.

“You have a few ‘very dark green’ people, but you want a lot of people to embrace all somewhat environmentally conscious thinking. You could also leave the car at home a lot or eat meat less often.”

‘Price matters to consumers’

Hoss doubts whether the sale of packaging-free products will involve large quantities. About 80 percent of packaging-free products are organic. Albert Heijn wants unpacked products to no longer be more expensive per kilogram than the prepackaged alternative. But organic products have the image that they are often more expensive than non-organic products. “People often look at the price,” Hoss says.

After a quick comparison of some of the products, it does seem that the unpackaged products are not more expensive and sometimes a little cheaper than the packaged version.

“Convenience is important to many consumers”

For most consumers, convenience will be more important at the moment, Hoss believes. He believes that for many consumers, it is a shame to have to clean up the reusable packaging and take it to the store when you go shopping. Hoss also predicts that packaging-free products have a greater chance of success in certain neighborhoods of Amsterdam, for example, than in smaller places.

Hoss believes that the unpackaged products also fit in well with some other supermarket chains, such as Ekoplaza and some Jumbo branches. But he sees less chance of success for discounter Dirk and Vomar (a regional supermarket chain, especially in northern Holland).

Maybe in 50 other stores

Albert Heijn wants to introduce packaging-free shopping in 50 more stores next year, if the trial is successful. This would be mainly in the larger supermarkets, because serving unpackaged products takes up more space than the packaged alternative.

The fact that you can wrap the products yourself is not new in itself. For example, in Jumbo and Vomar you can eat frozen fish yourself and in some Albert Heijn stores you can do it with nuts, or (around Easter) with chocolate Easter eggs.

But the point here is that you can decide the amount yourself. You should still put these products in disposable containers, says Emonds.

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