M&S extends packaging-free food pilot

3 March 2020

Marks & Spencer has announced it is extending its packaging-free ‘Fill Your Own’ concept to a second store after initial results revealed sales of loose food were better than their pre-packaged equivalents in more than half of cases.

Fill Your Own is a facility enabling shoppers to dispense their own amount of products including oats and other cereals, rice, coffee, raisins and pasta into recyclable paper bags. And it is now being extended to its Manchester city centre store. 

The extension was green-lit after sales of 25 products out of 44 in an initial trial in the Southampton store in December were found to be selling in greater volumes than the packaged equivalents. 

But the move also chimes with research M&S has conducted with shoppers, which found strong consumer demand for more environmentally-friendly purchasing options. 

The research found more than 75% of consumers said they were consciously trying to reduce their use of plastic packaging, with two thirds saying they were more likely to consider refillable groceries now compared to this time last year.

What seems to have sealed the pilot extension was the finding that nearly one in four (23%) shoppers would actively seek out retailers that offer a refillables service. 

Paul Willgoss, director of food technology at M&S, said: “The Fill Your Own concept is part of our action to reduce plastic packaging and support our customers to reuse and recycle. As a completely new way of shopping, we’re keen to better understand refill across the entire store process from behind the scenes operations to working together with our customers to encourage behaviour change.” 

M&S said it had already removed 2,000 tonnes of single plastic packaging from its stores in the last two years. In addition it has also removed 2,700 tonnes of black plastic (typically supplied with meat, fish and poultry, fruit and veg and ready meals). It’s goal is to be completely free of plastic by the end of the year, and ensure all of its packaging is recyclable by 2022.

M&S said that if its second store duplicates Southampton’s success, it will consider a full nation-wide rollout.

Last summer Waitrose launched its own similar packaging-free trial, offering products including pasta, rice, grains, cereals and dried fruits alongside detergent, washing-up liquid, wine, beer and coffee.

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