Kroger, Woolworths to expand reusable packaging trials to stores

Sept 22 (Reuters) - U.S. grocery chain Kroger (KR.N) and Australia's Woolworths (WOW.AX) are expanding in-store trials of selling food, drink, household, and beauty products in reusable packaging, joining a list of such global chains looking to reduce plastic waste.

After an online pilot test in 2019, Kroger is expanding the trial with Loop, a global reusable packaging platform, to 25 Fred Meyer banner stores in Portland, Oregon, for six months starting in the second half of 2021, Keith Dailey, Kroger's VP of corporate affairs, told Reuters.

Through a separate Loop aisle, shoppers will be able to pick up health & beauty, grocery, and cleaning products in glass containers and aluminum boxes. They can be returned to stores when finished, to be cleaned, refilled, and used again.

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About 20 products will be offered initially to customers, which would include Kroger's own-brand essentials such as Simple Truth soaps, but the majority are expected to be from national brands.

Companies such as Unilever (ULVR.L), Procter & Gamble (PG.N), Nestle (NESN.S), Coca-Cola (KO.N) and Clorox (CLX.N) are some of Loop's global partners, but it wasn't immediately clear which of these brands would be a part of Kroger's initial test.

Customers will be charged a minimum deposit fee that can then be refunded on return through Loop's mobile app, said Tom Szaky, Founder of TerraCycle, the waste management platform that created Loop. Deposits would range from 15 cents for a Coca-Cola bottle to $10 for a Clorox wipes package.

"Our plan was to always launch in-store. It was delayed by the (COVID-19) pandemic, largely due to supply chain constraints... but we are happy to launch now to see a future with zero-waste packaging," Kroger's Dailey said.

Similar Loop trials will be launched in Woolworth's grocery stores in Australia next year, building on programs already rolled out with Tesco in the United Kingdom and Aeon in Japan this year, and Carrefour in France in 2020, Loop said.

The company is also testing currently reusable coffee cups at six McDonald's outlets in the United Kingdom and will be expanding similar trials with Burger King and Tim Hortons in more markets next year.

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Reporting by Siddharth Cavale in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V

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