retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Fast Company has the story of Zero Grocery in the San Francisco Bay Area, where, if you order groceries, "the food shows up in packages that the company wants back. Common brands, such as Honey Bunches of Oats cereal or Kettle potato chips, come in glass jars. Baby spinach comes in glass jars. Yogurt and milk come in glass jars. When the containers are empty, you leave them outside your door (along with any ice packs) for a delivery person to pick up when your next order arrives, like a modern version of a milkman."

According to the story, "Virtually all of the 1,110-plus items that the service offers are packaged in reusable containers, with a handful of products, such as meat and fish, in compostable wrappers. Customers pay $25 a month for membership, which includes unlimited free deliveries and avoids the need to charge deposits on the glass containers."

Zero Grocery sources the product "from manufacturers in bulk packaging meant for large orders by hotels or airlines, and then repacking the food into reusable containers."  The company now is working with some manufacturers that avoid plastics in their packaging.

Fast Company writes that "the startup tracks each product more closely than would happen in a traditional supply chain, where there are typically several steps of distributors in the middle before food reaches a consumer. It also tracks what happens to each package … When each package is returned, it’s cleaned and sterilized before repacking."

The story notes that "zero-waste or plastic-free grocery stores are becoming increasingly common, and it’s likely that more delivery services will follow. In Brooklyn, the startup Wally Shop also offers zero-waste delivery. Loop, a platform working with large brands, is helping manufacturers test new reusable packaging."

KC's View:

It is hard to imagine how this would work on a larger scale, and yet there is a part of me that thinks that it is only through figuring out not just how to scale it, but how to change human behavior to make this more acceptable and widespread, that we can have an impact on the increasingly fragile planet on which we live.

Good for companies like this, that choose to light a candle rather than curse the darkness.