Europe first introduced the idea of the packaging free grocery store in the mid 2000’s. Rather than implementing unnecessary packaging that would result in more landfill waste, customers provide their own reusable containers, which are weighed and then used to shop for their food in bulk. It’s a pretty revolutionary yet simple idea when you consider that the average American discards four fifths of a ton of trash per year individually, much of which is comprised of unnecessary product packaging material.
Austin, Texas based store in.gredients is the first store of this kind in the United States and their guiding principles are zero waste, local food, and community. If this trend continues and spreads it will not only help with the waste, but it will perhaps help to reduce our waistlines as well.
“Truth be told, what’s normal in the grocery business isn’t healthy for consumers or the environment," In.gredients co-founder Christian Lane said in a press release. Americans add 570 million pounds of food packaging to their landfills each day, while pre-packaged foods force consumers to buy more than they need, stuffing their bellies and their trash bins: 27 percent of food brought into U.S. kitchens ends up getting tossed out.”
There are two problems that arise for these companies that hurt business. The first is that consumers respond to packaging. Billions of dollars are put into the ad industry to convince the shopper that they need this thing. It is difficult at this stage to outsell grocery stores that hawk their products in flashy wrappers. Another issue is the consumer's ability to visualize quantities. For example “When a customer sees tea priced at $45.00/lb the initial thought is, “Wow! That’s expensive”, but a pound of tea makes approximately 226 servings of tea, so it comes out to only $0.20/cup for high quality tea.”
So what can you do while waiting for a packaging free grocery store to come to your area? choosing items with minimal packaging will help shape consumer trends. The most important thing to remember here is that we as the consumers have the power. If we don’t buy it, they’ll stop producing it.