GDR puts Loop’s zero-waste ecosystem to the test

Jul 23, 2020

GDR head of strategy Eric Coulon assesses the strengths and weaknesses of zero-waste FMCG ecosystem Loop after its long-awaited arrival in the UK.

Zero-waste ecosystem Loop, which we covered in May last year when it launched in the US and France, has arrived in the UK through a partnership with Tesco. The service is the product of some of the world’s leading FMCG companies joining forces with Terracycle to tackle the vast amounts of plastic waste amassed through the consumption of everyday, disposable products. Loop replaces the disposable packaging traditionally used for store cupboard essentials and other household products with refillable containers, which are collected when they are empty, before being cleaned and reintroduced into its ecosystem.

In the US, Loop appears to be going from strength to strength; after an initial launch in New York the service is expanding nationwide and 400 brands have signed up to the platform. Despite the additional cost to consumers, who have to pay a deposit for the containers of each product, the past few months of lockdown have seen a glut of new customers in the US testing out the platform as demand for grocery delivery in general has boomed. The system is also set to get its first in-store rollout in Kroger and Walgreens stores later this year, and is expected to expand to Japan and Australia next year.

The UK launch has given us the opportunity to try out the service for ourselves so we can test the user experience and try to gauge its potential to make a major impact on the way we buy our groceries.

Here are our thoughts:

 

The ordering process is seamless and efficient.

It is much simpler to use than regular grocery websites and offers next day delivery through courier company DPD; the one downside is that you can’t currently select a specific time slot.

The deposit scheme costs extra, but returns are really convenient.

For each product, a deposit has to be paid for the container, which you can redeem when you return them (the tote bag comes with a hefty £10 deposit). Returning is very easy though: you can order a pickup from your house online anytime and it can coincide with your next delivery to make things easy.

 

It’s early days for Loop in the UK, which means there is a limited amount of choice.

There are less brands available than in the US and French markets, where Loop has been up and running for a year, but several new brands will be coming soon.

So far, kitchen cupboard items like pasta, grains, biscuits and breakfast cereals can be ordered, mostly under Loop’s own brand ‘Nevoli’. So can household cleaning products and personal care essentials. Brands like Coca-Cola, Heinz ketchup and Jackpot peanut butter are already available; with Danone, Tropicana, Persil scheduled to arrive soon.

It doesn’t offer a full grocery shop.

Fresh meat and vegetables are not currently available, nor are they offered by Loop in either of its other markets. That’s understandable: Loop is first and foremost a response to the problematic packaging of FMCG products. However, a logical endgame for the service would be to incorporate this type of produce so that Loop can present itself as a complete alternative to the way consumers buy their weekly groceries.

 

Money-wise, it is definitely on the pricey side.

A 1.5L Nairobi water bottle will cost you £5.40, it costs £8 for 45ml of Noice toothpaste, and £38 for a 500ml REN Moroccan body lotion. When this is coupled with the deposits for each container, the current pricing is likely to make the service inaccessible to many.

Each product comes in reusable containers, made of glass or metal.

It is surprising, though, that each product comes sealed with removable plastic shrink wrap that is definitely not reusable. The order comes well-sealed in the signature black and blue tote bag, along with a pre-filled return slip for easy pickup.

Each container carries a label with nutritional information, use by date, ingredient origins and other legal information, as you’d get on standard packing.

Once consumed, products should be returned to Loop in the tote bag. To help customers keep track of what they should send back, there is a ‘What’s in my Loop’ section on the website where members can check all the containers they should return. There is no set date to send those back; they can be returned whenever is convenient.

 

Beyond price and choice, the CX is excellent.

Loop UK has only just launched and is in its pilot stage at the moment. While the choice available is set to improve in the coming weeks and months, the price point does present a longer-term barrier to serious uptake, so it will be interesting to see whether this comes down once the system becomes better established in the UK market (although prices remain similar in France and the US). That said, all other aspects of the consumer journey, from the user experience online to the deliveries are spotless.

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