Taking Packaging Out Of The Equation

 Nothing sets products apart more readily for a consumer in a supermarket than radically different packaging. And this is why I think I found a marketer’s worst nightmare within an idea for an overhaul of traditional supermarket shopping! But does it really have to be the end of the world or is it just a new opportunity for innovation?


Regardless of whether consumers are looking for convenience, quality or novelty in their weekly supermarket shopping trips, one thing remains true. Excessive amounts of single-use packaging are flooding our landfills and oceans killing wildlife and exposing nature to a number of dangerous toxins. No matter the convenience, there comes a point when enough is enough and it is time to do something about this important global issue.

Two women in Berlin have stepped up to face this issue through a crowd-funding initiative to start their own packaging-free grocery store. The innovative pair behind this supermarket, Original Unverpakt (“Original Unpacked”), are promoting the idea of precycling by encouraging consumers to bring their own containers and packaging in which to purchase their food. Backed by a German crowd-funding campaign, the idea has raised in excess of £100,000 (with an original target of £45,000) and has secured over 600 producers willing to stock their products in the packaging-free environment.

What separates this attempt from other packaging-free initiatives is the focus on creating a chic, upscale and post-modern appearance as opposed to the usual folksy charm and laid back vibe. This supermarket is just as cutting edge as its competitors – just minus all the packaging.

If you are fluent in German or can improvise an understanding of the language based on visual images, then check out the creators’ video promoting their crowd-funding campaign here.

But this presents a challenge for marketers?

For a long time, consumer goods marketing has relied on packaging to achieve differentiation. Overtime consumers will develop a certain relationship with a brand and that packaging will become less essential. However, exciting packaging can still win a consumer over to trying a competitor. So what do you do in an environment where there is absolutely no packaging?

There are a number of options. Product shape can be used as a differentiator – i.e. breakfast cereals. Product colour can be used as a differentiator – i.e. soft drinks (other than Coke and Pepsi). Or we may see products take on a new style to stand out from their competitors.

While there may still be some teething branding issues to overcome, the 600 brands involved in this new supermarket will certainly reap the benefits of positive relationships as consumers take more concern with the environmental impact of their actions. A trend that is growing dramatically amongst the community!

Who knows what the outcome will be? Will brands be able to satisfactorily differentiate themselves without the aid of packaging or will they steer clear of the opportunity to develop strong relationships with younger generations strongly concerned with the environment?

While we will just have to wait and see, it is certainly an interesting idea and something that we should all start thinking about as we head towards packaging-free options in all sectors.