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More than two-thirds of UK consumers are willing to use refill services now been offered by some supermarket chains to cut down on the use of plastics in packaged foods, a survey shows.

Some 71.3% of 2,000 respondents to a monthly survey conducted by London-based data and analytics firm GlobalData said they were interested in using refill services. 

And 44.1% of 16- to 24-year-olds who had purchased food and grocery products in July had used a refill station in the last 12 months, compared to 35% of 25-34 year-olds and 25.4% of those aged 35-44 years.

Hannah Thomson, a retail analyst at GlobalData, said: “Amid growing awareness of the harmful effects of single-use plastics on the environment, retailers are keen to prove that they are acting responsibly and responding to consumers’ concerns. After initial set-up costs, retailers could benefit from selling certain goods unpackaged and removing packaging costs. Waitrose has said that its ‘Unpacked’ trial resulted in cost savings from goods arriving in-store in re-usable containers.”

Consumers who said they would not be willing to use refill services cited inconvenience in carrying storage containers as the factor. A solution, GlobalData suggests, would be for supermarkets to provide recyclable paper bags or to offer a discount as an incentive for bringing re-usable containers.

A discount option might be the tonic to convince the 19.2% of consumers surveyed who thought it would be more expensive to buy unpackaged food products, according to the data provider.

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By GlobalData

Thomson continued: “Encouragingly for retailers, the least-cited reason for not wishing to buy unpackaged items is a preference for branded products. This leaves retailers free to switch suppliers in search of the best margins, and should give them the confidence to use suppliers which are able to deliver in bulk instead of in packaging, and not worry about customers’ brand loyalty.”