Sustainability spurs innovation in $42 billion reuse and refill packaging market, new Smithers study finds

Sustainability spurs innovation in $42 billion reuse and refill packaging market, new Smithers study finds

LEATHERHEAD, Surrey, UK and AKRON, Ohio, USA – July 6, 2022 – Reusable and refillable packaging is one of the most dynamic sectors of the packaging market in 2022, with rapid growth fuelled by innovative formats and the imperative to enact more planet-friendly business models. By fundamentally rethinking packaging physical retailers and brands can make a highly visible commitment to cutting single-use plastics; while for e-commerce subscription businesses it provides a major opportunity to differentiate themselves from competitors.

This sector is examined in detail in a brand new targeted market study from Smithers – The Future of Refillable and Reusable Packaging to 2027. This projects that the market will reach $42 billion in 2022, up from $35.1 billion in 2017. As the industry looks to new concepts to realise true circularity in packaging, Smithers forecasts future growth at 5% year-on-year reaching a value of $53.5 billion in 2027.

Smithers’ analysis identifies four distinct business models:
  • Refill-at-home – Users refill a container at home – typically with lightweight or concentrate refills delivered by a mobile refill or subscription service
  • Return-from-home – Packaging is recovered for reuse from a consumer’s home by the scheme operator, or a logistics company working under contract
  • Refill-in-store – Consumers take reusable containers on their shopping trips to refill via an in-store dispensing point
  • Return-in-store – Users return the reusable packaging at a store or designated drop-off point, often supported by a deposit return scheme.
Reuse and refill is a familiar business model in beverage retailing, especially for glass bottles. For this reason even in 2022, glass packaging for beverages remains the dominant segment, representing over 75% of all reuse refill packs.

Other segments are still at a nascent phase. Brand owners in food, cosmetics & personal care, home care, and other beverage types are investing heavily in reuse/refill concepts featuring more durable packaging design for repeat use and prolonged handling. Strengthened by the experience of Covid-19 and the rise in e-commerce subscription sales, Smithers forecasts each of these new segments will see growth in excess of 30% year-on-year across the next five years.

There are several technologies that will improve the effectiveness of reuse packaging models:
  • More expensive reuse concepts can justify the integration of smart packaging concepts as standard, linking the consumer to advice on refill locations and incentivising reuse; including the development of scheme-specific smartphone apps 
  • Integrating this with track-and-trace systems will give greater insight into packaging and waste flows, facilitating the more accurate mapping and effective collection of higher value reusable packaging
  • There is a limited deployment of refill locations for refill-in-store platforms, greater diversification of these will make them a more appealing option for customers. Immediate priorities are to develop mobile refill machinery, and multi-product dispensers that can provide a range of SKUs comparable to those seen on supermarket shelves
  • Superior bottle cleaning technology will increase the number of bottles recoverable for existing beverage refill systems, including the deployment of more automated, decentralised micro-cleaning facilities, and more durable PET bottle constructions.
Smithers further contextualises this fast-developing segment with critical analysis of the evolving regulatory framework for sustainable packaging, and how this will support or hinder roll-out
reuse and refill schemes.

The Future of Refillable and Reusable Packaging to 2027 combines exclusive market data with extensive analysis of the current state-of-the-art for reuse packaging, technical challenges, disruptive technologies and when and where such concepts can yield a genuine improvement to the environment.
It presents data for the global market sub-dividing is by sales channel/model; material type; end-use application; and geographic region.

This in-depth strategic study available to purchase now priced $6,750 (€5,950, £4,950).

Find out more

Download The Future of Refillable and Reusable Packaging to 2027 brochure

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