A new wave of packaging-free trials could help end excess waste, but with less packaging to work with, brands need to find new ways to differentiate themselves as some of their most recognised assets will disappear.

A host of brands and retailers have been addressing the plastic waste problem but the recent move towards packaging-free innovations has prompted a number of new challenges for brands.

Removing packaging changes the entire customer experience, meaning brands are going to have to work harder to stand out from the crowd. Because without packaging, consumers will find it harder to tell the difference between an own-label cornflakes brand and the market leader, for example.

Far from being a niche trend limited to premium or independent retailers, the shift to refillable is also being explored by major players like Waitrose. It now offers 200 own-brand lines as part of its Unpacked refillables trial, as well as cleaning products from eco-friendly brand Ecover, wine refills from When in Rome and beer from Toast.

Earlier this month, the supermarket revealed it was extending its packaging-free trial, which has been underway at its Botley Road store in Oxford since June, to three other locations after the range outsold packaged equivalents.

Waitrose’s corporate communications manager James Armstrong says a survey of its customers found 90% who had purchased the range would do so again.

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