Could Package-Free Shopping Ever Work In The U.S.?

Product packaging might be considered completely ordinary or incredibly important, wasteful or vital, it all depends on whom you ask. For companies that need protect and brand a product, packaging is one of the most essential ways to do both.

For consumers, the package is often where they turn to find information, gain an impression, and make a purchasing decision.

For the sustainability minded, packaging can determine which companies are making a difference and which are simply making more garbage.  But imagine going to the place, where all of these concepts and notions come together—the grocery store—and completely removing packaging from the experience.

Could buying food and other essentials in a brand-free, package free environment actually work?

Sustainability And Substance Over Style
Those questions, as well as many others, were raised as the opening of a waste-free, package free supermarket in Germany was publicized last spring.  Original Unverpacket was said to be the start of a clean shopping revolution.

Rather than housing shelves and rows of single-use boxes, bags, cans, jars, and other branded containers, the package-free supermarket offers locally supplied food in gravity bins, basic displays, and other vessels from which shoppers can pour, scoop, and select items based on quantities they choose. The idea is all about sustainability and substance instead of style—although the shop itself could easily be called unique.


Making Customers Creative And In Control
Six months in operation, the Berlin based shopping experiment is still up and running. It’s also still modifying their process, and changing the way customers think about what they buy and how they buy it.

Instead of merchandizing and shopping psychology occurring on the cover of a single box or label, the Original Unverpacket store itself is an exercise in how those functions play out. Reportedly, the package-free approach allows shoppers—or rather asks them—to be more creative and more in control of how they choose and manage the foods they buy.

Could It Work In the U.S.?
In the U.S., where the idea of bringing your own bags to a grocery store can still seem like a strange concept for some, it’s hard to tell how a shopping system like the one at Original Unverpacket would work. Is a label and brand-free approach to food a better way to encourage Americans to eat more mindfully and produce less waste in the process?

When all foods are sold the same way as local produce and other non-packed items, will consumers look for freshness instead of convenience? Is this approach something that should have food producers that rely on market recognition rather than ingredient quality feeling a little nervous?


Part Of A Food Buying Revolution?
It would be foolish to say that mainstream supermarkets will be likely to overhaul their current approach to offer a very specialized and nonstandard experience like Original Unverpacket, but consumers are shifting their tastes in favor of freshness, locally provided, and healthy foods.

This is a concept that delivers those impressions. Perhaps food producers and providers than can easily lend their products to such shopping innovation will have a decided edge over those that deliver more style than substance.

Do you agree or disagree? 

Tell us your thoughts on package-free, waste-free marketplaces in the comments.

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Lisa Myers

Is a blogger with an interest for all things mechanical. She is a full-time mom with three active boys, who loves encouraging them to explore the world of science and engineering. They spend a lot of time together playing with Legos.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 4 comments

I suppose packaging plays a vitally important role in a company’s public perception, especially if a company uses their packaging for promotional purposes and to perpetuate their image and their mission or identity. I think it is to squander an opportunity to communicate to your customers if a company does not use its packaging for these purpose. It’s also an opportunity to gain public favor by endorsing biodegradable materials. This is important in today’s environmentally conscious society. I think it is also irresponsible to waste such an opportunity.


This sounds like a Dutch company, no? I am all for reusing packaging so that the constant manufacturing of non-recyclable packaging products. However, realistically, this type of packaging system can apply only to certain types of products – mainly certain types of consumables. There are a lot of challenges for other types of products such as cleaning liquids and even beer. Wine is kind of easy, but nothing that has carbonation.


I suppose this type of system can work well for consumables that are either non-perishable, such as candy and legumes, as well as perishables that get consumed rather quickly, such as fruits and vegetables. There are certain products that need to be packaged and sealed, such as canned goods. That type of packaging helps extend the shelf life of certain foods. Chemicals are another type of product that need to be sealed.


It’s become clear that retailers and manufacturers across many industries from food and beverage and pharmaceutical to consumer products that continually innovate and utilize new forms of packaging, need to be ever-mindful of the associated sustainability implications. Consumers are heightening their focus on business environmental practices, signaling their demand for sustainable packaging as well as broader corporate transparency and accountability.


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