Procter & Gamble, rivals take refills into beauty aisle
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[November 01, 2019] By
Siddharth Cavale and Richa Naidu
LONDON/CHICAGO (Reuters) - Under pressure
to reduce environmental waste from single-use containers, major consumer
companies including Procter & Gamble Co <PG.N>, Unilever Plc <ULVR.L>
and The Body Shop are rolling out more products in refillable form.
P&G, with roughly $68 billion in annual revenue, said it has invested
millions in creating and testing refills for detergents over the years
and is now trying to push in to mainstream beauty and body care refills
– which are virtually unheard of.
It recently began offering some Olay face-cream jars with refill pouches
on Olay.com, telling Reuters it has plans to expand the sales of the
pouches in Europe early next year. "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 said.
Beauty products retailer The Body Shop, owned by Brazil's Natura
Cosmeticos SA <NATU3.SA>, says it plans to roll out "refill stations" in
its stores globally next year, allowing shoppers to buy reusable metal
containers to fill with Body Shop shower gels or creams. The company had
offered refills at its stores in the early 1990s, but discontinued them
in 2003, citing a lack of consumer demand.
Unilever, which has set targets for reducing and recycling plastic by
2025, in October announced the planned launch of "refill sticks" of
deodorants under its Dove line of personal care products on
Loopstore.com. The website, operated by recycling company TerraCycle,
offers consumers the chance to buy some household products in
ultra-durable packaging with refills delivered to their doors,
Across the consumer goods industry, results for refillable products have
been mixed so far as many shoppers are far too set in their ways to be
easily weaned from living in a throwaway culture. While refills are less
expensive to purchase - generally priced at 20% to 30% less per item
than the containers they are aimed to replenish, according to Unilever -
shoppers have so far, for the most part, failed to snap them up, the
CONSUMER APATHY VS. CONSUMER PRESSURE
SC Johnson & Son Inc, marketer of Windex and Pledge, said refills and
concentrates so far have not played well with either Americans or
Europeans over the decade they have been offered, with unit sales of
such products pretty much flat. It pulled concentrated refills for Shout
stain remover off the shelves because they were not selling very well.
In 2010, Unilever put 20-liter tanks to dispense detergents in Walmart
Inc's <WMT.N> British supermarket chain Asda, and provided flexible
pouches for customers to refill. But with leaky machines, safety and
maintenance problems and the high costs of upkeep, Unilever said the
tests fell short of expectations. Asda was also unhappy because the
tanks occupied a lot of space.
[to top of second column]
at a station for refilling shower gel at a Body Shop store
on Bond Street in London, Britain, October 28, 2019.
"None of them sell very well – it is a convenience issue," SC Johnson
CEO Fisk Johnson told Reuters. Johnson said some people find it
painstaking to wash and refill bottles themselves while others worry
that smaller bottles filled with concentrates are less
"bang-for-your-buck" than the larger ones they have used for years.
Still, the privately held company said it was expanding its refill
offerings this year to address concerns surrounding plastic waste and is
also testing refill stations for cleaning products with UK retailer
Waitrose, owned by Britain's John Lewis [JLPLC.UL]. The Waitrose tests
are showing the first signs of progress in refill sales, Johnson said,
and the company is now thinking of expanding the project.
Even if consumers are comfortable using refills for some household
goods, it is more complicated to sell them for products like Pantene
shampoo and Olay creams, P&G spokesman Jones said. For instance, with
beauty products, the look and feel of packaging is a big factor in
creating and maintaining customer loyalty, while delivering an
environmental benefit, he said.
Some shoppers say they want to buy refillable products, but that the
offerings are not available at many stores. Earlier this year, dozens of
consumers took to social media to urge The Body Shop to bring back its
“Refill, refill, refill!" Twitter user @JaiChipperfield said on July 22,
joining a thread in which several other shoppers demanded the return of
refills. "Seems to me that judging by these comments your customers want
to see the return of refills," @JaiChipperfield added. "Me too, it would
be brilliant to see that return.”
The Body Shop eventually responded to those pleas.
"Now with the renewed focus on sustainability, we believe it is the
right time to return with it," Body Shop spokeswoman Lucy Muircroft told
Reuters this week.
(Reporting by Siddharth Cavale in London and Richa Naidu in Chicago;
Editing by Vanessa O'Connell and Matthew Lewis)
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