Kroger and Loop, the circular reuse platform developed by TerraCycle, are bringing their reuse partnership to Portland, Oregon. The launch is the first time Loop’s in-store reuse service is available in retail stores in the United States.
Starting this week, Portlanders will be able to shop for more than 20 products in reusable containers at 25 Kroger-owned Fred Meyer grocery stores in the Portland metro area. Stubb's barbecue sauce, Nature's Path granola, Pantene shampoo and conditioner and Clorox wipes are just a handful of the offerings.
Loop worked with about 10 brands behind the products to get them "Loop ready" by identifying durable, reusable packaging that is appropriate for their products and the Loop cleaning processes, as well as for the brands’ refill processes.
We are giving consumers what they’ve been asking for since Loop was introduced in 2019.
From there, Loop, the brands and Kroger determined how the items will be displayed in store, the amount of the deposit on the packaging and the location of the return bins. For the Fred Meyer pilot, they will be outside in front of the stores.
"I think that the model is pretty straightforward," said Lisa Zwack, head of sustainability at Kroger. "[The planning process was] about bringing it to life in the context of brick and mortar retail and our business specifically, and then making sure that the brands are ready to go and be part of that ecosystem."
Here’s how the process works for customers: Once they’ve selected their items, they check out at the regular register, including paying the deposits for packaging. When they finish using the product, they have two options: Keep the packaging or return it at one of the 25 participating Fred Meyer stores. If choosing the second option, the customer scans the product using the Loop mobile app before putting it into the collection bin, which will be serviced weekly. Once Loop has serviced the bin and sorted through the returned packaging, it will return the deposit to the customer.
Loop previously launched in-store reuse with partners in other parts of the world — including Carrefour in France, Aeon in Japan and Tesco in the United Kingdom. Zwack said getting all of the pieces into place was seamless because of Loop’s experiences with previous in-store launches.
"Loop’s goal has always been to grow, scale and be accessible to consumers around the world," said Tom Szaky, founder and CEO of TerraCycle and Loop, in a statement about the expansion. "We are giving consumers what they’ve been asking for since Loop was introduced in 2019 — the ability to purchase the products they use every day in durable, reusable containers, with the convenience of shopping at their local market."
To ensure that the pilot, slated to run for about six months, succeeds, Kroger will have Loop ambassadors in the store during peak shopping hours to raise awareness about the reuse program and answer customer questions about how it works. (That is in addition to visual displays at the end of the aisles that illustrate the Loop process.) The ambassadors will also be collecting feedback from customers "to further understand their perceptions, reactions and appetite for this model," according to Zwack.
She noted that Kroger is committed to looking for scalable solutions that align with its zero-waste vision to create "communities free from waste and hunger by 2025." This pilot is part of an effort toward achieving that goal.
"We're really eager to learn from the pilots, and then figure out what potential next steps could look like," Zwack said.