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  • Writer's pictureJulie de Vaan

This is why the food industry should focus on refillable packaging

Updated: May 12, 2023

Due to a ban on the free supply of single-used plastic (from July 2023) and high raw material prices, the use of disposable packaging will become increasingly expensive. The use of refillable or reusable packaging is one of the most effective measures to reduce these costs and the amount of waste, emissions and resources required in the food industry. Therefore, many companies in the industry want to increase their share of reusable and refillable packaging.

Developments in the field of refill

Substantial investments are already being made in innovations in the field of refillable and reusable packaging. This makes these packaging increasingly safer, more hygienic, easier and more attractive. Many different initiatives have been launched to offer reusable and refillable packaging. Major players in the industry such as Albert Heijn, Coca-Cola and Heineken are starting pilots with packaging-free products and refillable packaging. But also think of reusable fruit and vegetable bags in the supermarket, the recycling system with coins at festivals, or the call to "bring your own cup" at many coffee bars.

Consumer behaviour

Research by Kantar Public shows that consumers also find it important to reduce packaging and try to use less disposable packaging. However, this intention does not yet lead to a massive change in consumer behaviour. This is because a lot of initiatives and innovations from companies do not (yet) fit in well with the processes in the minds of the consumer, and the way in which they make choices in the supermarket, at the gas station, in the canteen or at festivals. It is therefore important to take the consumer's choice process into account when developing and implementing new initiatives or innovations. When, where, how and why do they make certain (conscious or unconscious) choices? And how can a company respond to these processes at the right times, places and ways to stimulate the choice for refillable packaging?

Pieter Pot's success story is an example of an initiative that is catching on, because the target group's selection process is taken into account. With the online packaging-free supermarket, Pieter Pot is creating an entirely new system that has been specially developed to respond to consumers' existing processes. They can easily order online, do not have to carry empty packaging and do not have to wash used pots theirselves. This makes it very convenient, which is very important for consumers when shopping for groceries. As a result, the consumer is even willing to pay a little more to keep the system circular.

Opportunities for refill

The example of Pieter Pot shows that there is a lot of potential in the future of reusable and refillable packaging. There is still a lot of opportunity for growth in the market. However, it is important to take the consumer's choice processes into account when developing and implementing new initiatives. In this way, as a company, you can better manage innovations and developments that suit consumers well and will be successful, and you ensure that your initiatives and investments in this area will pay off.

How companies in the food sector can profit from opportunities with regard to refill? To find out, we are starting a study into refillable packaging in the food industry. Based on this, we provide concrete advice on when, where and how companies can best encourage consumers to use refillable packaging in their specific situation. Interested in the research or curious about what the results could do for you? Send an e-mail to Mats for more information (


  • KVK. (2022). Verbod op gratis plastic wegwerpbekers en -bakjes.

  • Albert Heijn. (2022). Albert Heijn introduceert verpakkingsvrij boodschappen doen.

  • Coca-Cola Nederland. (2022). Coca-Cola in Nederland start pilot met nieuw compact freestyle® tapsysteem voor dranken.

  • Plastic Promise. (2021). Het circulaire bekersysteem van Formula 1 Heineken® Dutch Grand Prix, dit is hoe het werkt.

  • Kantar Public. (2021). Kansen om Nederlanders en Nederlandse supermarkten in beweging te krijgen om herbruikbare verpakkingen te gebruiken en introduceren.

  • (2022). Nu ook onverpakte hagelslag en havermout te koop: verpakkingsvrij aanbod groeit.

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