Big FMCG companies are exploring the use of refills in new categories at the same time as supermarkets are looking to reduce the use of plastic from the products they stock.

After several years of experimenting with detergent refills, Procter & Gamble has started down a similar path for some of its beauty products: it now offers some Olay face-cream jars with refill pouches on the brand website.

“We’re learning on our legs so I don’t know that we’re in a position to say, ‘Hey, here’s the magic to selling refills,’” P&G spokesman Damon Jones told Reuters.

Previous efforts in selling cleaning refills have stumbled on several issues. A hardcore of consumers will welcome such initiatives but far more are apathetic in the absence of incentives to change behaviour such as the taxes that have been introduced on plastic carriers bags in some countries.

Fisk Johnson, CEO of SC Johnson & Son, the marketer of Windex and Pledge, explained that consumers find it “a convenience issue”, but it is continuing to test its refill offerings and has found some encouraging signs in UK retailer Waitrose and may expand the project.

Retailers, meanwhile, have had to handle in-store problems around the space occupied by refill tanks as well as the maintenance involved.

For a vertically integrated business like The Body Shop, however, this is less of an issue and the beauty retailer intends to bring back refill counters to its stores.

Elsewhere, UK supermarket chain Tesco claims it will remove one billion pieces of plastic from the products it sells in store by the end of next year as part of its 4Rs strategy (remove, reduce, reuse or recycle) to axe all non-recyclable and excess packaging from its business.

It’s targeting plastic trays in ready meals, secondary lids on products such as cream and yoghurts, straws from drink cartons, forks from snack pots, and small plastic bags used to carry loose fruit and vegetables.

“By focusing on solutions that we can apply across all our UK stores and supply chain, we can make a significant difference and achieve real scale in our efforts to tackle plastic,” said CEO Dave Lewis.

Sourced from Reuters, Retail Week; additional content by WARC staff