Top 10 business benefits of refillable drinks and bulk-refill
28th November 2023
The use of refillable flavoured hot and cold drinks and the bulk-refill of liquid grocery products is on the rise with 60% of people in the UK carrying refillable drinks bottles compared to that of only 20% in 2012. In this piece, we’ll explore some key business benefits of refillable drinks and bulk-refill and how technology can be used to propel the movement even further.
It’s not just retailers who are getting behind this movement (with an increase in the number of zero waste shops), but Governments seem to be actively encouraging it with incentives such as:
- The French Government started to make bulk refill mandatory for shops – Convention Citoyenne pour le Climat (in French)
- The European Commission’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive recently included a proposed target for 95% of cold and hot beverage cups to be reusable by 2040
- In February 2022, Chile signed into its single-use plastics law that all supermarkets with more than three checkout points must offer and receive refillable beverage bottles in their physical and online stores).
With more consumers wishing to reuse their containers to bulk-refill or refill their drinks, some industries have started taking matters into their own hands and integrating refill machines within their premises for either product purchase (bulk dispense liquid refill), or food service use (food and beverage solutions) for drinking. Places where this is starting to happen include:
- Restaurants and cafes – these venues can save money on the cost of disposable cups and lids by offering refillable drink options. They can also increase customer satisfaction by appealing to customers who are concerned about the environment.
- Gyms and fitness facilities – health-focused facilities can provide a valuable service to their members by not only offering refillable water dispensers but also flavour and nutrient-enhanced product offerings. This can potentially support members’ workout performance and can also help the gym to reduce its single-use plastic waste.
- Retail environments – where space is at a premium, retailers are looking to install bulk-refill machines which take up less space yet supply their customers with a wide variety of products. Retailers need easy and low-cost-to-maintain equipment with quick and simple methods for product replenishment.
- Offices – large offices can save money on the cost of individual bottled drinks by providing refillable flavoured water dispensers for employees. This can also help the office to reduce its waste and appeal to employees who are concerned about the environment.
- Educational establishments – schools and universities can help to reduce their waste and educate students about the importance of sustainability by offering refillable flavoured water dispensers and other refillable drink options.
Top 10 Business Benefits
There are many business benefits of offering refillable drinks or bulk-refill, however, we’ve condensed our list to the top 10:
- Reducing environmental impact – meeting sustainability goals is high on the agenda for a growing number of businesses. By using refillable drink containers, or eliminating individually packaged goods with refill machines, companies are reducing the amount of single-use plastic waste produced, which is good for the environment.
- Reducing plastic consumption for health – throughout the world, single-use plastic is having a detrimental effect on the planet and our health. Not only is plastic pollution a huge problem in our oceans and rivers, but as the littered plastics are breaking down into smaller and smaller particles (or ‘nanoplastics’), it is becoming a widely reported health concern. This publicity is causing a rise in the popularity of plastic waste-free options.
- Materials cost savings – refillable drinks can save businesses money in the long run as long as machines can be low-cost and easy-to-maintain. Whilst setting up the system takes initial investment, the elimination of the ongoing cost to purchase single-use containers/bottles/cups will amortise this cap-ex over time and turn into savings.
- Machine footprint and shelfspace savings with more consumer choices – by not having to provide single-use cups inside a machine, the machine size can reduce dramatically. Similarly, by using bulk-refill where one large bag replaces individually packaged bottles or cartons, the shelf-space required for each product line can be reduced. Furthermore, where ingredients such as flavours or fragrances can be mixed with base products at the point of dispense, more choice can be offered to the consumer with less SKUs and reduced shelf-space. Lastly, and perhaps most significantly, dispensing also provides the opportunity to use higher concentrations of products and mix with water at the point of dispense, which, for certain products is a viable way to reduce footprint per product line.
- Transportation cost savings – similar to points mentioned in no.4 above: the space and potential additional weight that bulk packaging saves can also reduce shipping costs and by shipping a smaller volume of highly concentrated solution and diluting with water onsite, transportation space and weight can also be far smaller, resulting in a massive reduction in shipping and packaging costs.
- Increased customer satisfaction and loyalty – many customers appreciate businesses that are committed to sustainability and that offer refillable drink options. This can lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
- Harnessing technology – consumers are beginning to make use of technology to aid their sustainability efforts. The Refill App is a free app connects them to a global network of places to reduce, reuse and refill. It has over 400,000 app downloads to date (October 2023) and details a growing 300,000 refill stations offering refills for water, coffee, food containers and plastic-free shopping. Thousands of independent retailers, cafes and businesses already use the technology seeing an increase in their footfall, along with some big-name brands including Starbucks, Costa Coffee, Lush and National Trust.
- Competitive advantage – businesses that offer refillable drinks can differentiate themselves from their competitors, giving them a competitive advantage and helping to attract and retain new customers. An example of this could be gyms that offer refillable drinks with the aid of in-pump dilution and mixing. By offering highly tailored drinks that are enhanced depending on their customer’s needs e.g. a dose of vitamin C could be added to the usually-standard water, helping fitness people supplement their nutrition.
- Marketing opportunities – businesses can use refillable drinks as a marketing opportunity for both brand-building and sales, especially if a machine has an interactive screen and a central IoT cloud service. For example, the screen can offer more story around a brand and catch people’s attention, but for sales support, they can offer discounts to customers who bring their own reusable cups or bottles, or if there is a surplus of a particular product flavour in the supply chain, promotional discounts can help to shift that product type.
- Market retention and loyalty – by installing a refillable machine, consumers are likely to respond positively and return to the venue or brand for additional purchases and repeat business. Consumers become loyal to specific products if their goals are aligned and sustainability pushes them to develop a climate-conscious mindset and lean towards sustainable businesses.
So, with demand for bulk-refill or refillable drinks on the rise, multiple benefits for brands and retailers and with governments starting to push for change, why has there been such a slow deployment of liquid dispensing machines?
Pain Points with Dispensing Machines
The main problem is the upkeep required of the machines themselves: individually packed goods can be far easier to manage and less expensive. It is particularly a problem for retailers because they are on a mission to reduce the number of shop-floor staff required and are not already resourced to maintain equipment:
Typical pain points include:
- Regular cleaning / maintenance and pumps inside the machines need regular calibration which is expensive and time-consuming.
- Servicing machines takes considerable staff training which is expensive for businesses, especially those with high churn like supermarkets or fast food restaurants.
- Replenishing products can take too long vs stacking shelves.
- Drinks can be of inconsistent quality and brands/retailers can lose market share.
- Dispensers tend to generate mess from drips and spillages.
- Machines can break down or not function properly causing consumer complaints
However, there is good news for bulk-refill and refillable drinks…
The Key Enabler: Recyclable Pumps
Quantex is a new, game-changing recyclable pump technology that solves all of the pain points listed above. These lightweight, compact pumps are attached to the liquid packaging, and can either be connected in-line or directly to the liquid pack. If you are familiar with a tap used on a bag-in-box of wine, the ‘Bag-in-Box’ range of Quantex pumps can directly replace this Vitop tap – and, instead of pressing the tap and letting the product dribble out using gravity, the pumps are clicked into a small motor drive which doses the product accurately at various flowrates, with high vacuum and self-priming.
Unlike other pumps, Quantex can handle highly viscous solutions (including melted chocolate, condiments (i.e. ketchup and mayonnaise) and yoghurt) and accurately dose and perform in-pump dilution to enable brands to use higher concentrations of their products and save money on shipping costs by taking water out of the distribution channel. For drinks dispensing, gone are the days when only water could be dispensed, Quantex pumps allow consumers to add a variety of enhancements including liquid minerals and vitamins, syrups, coffee, milk, chocolate, flavouring etc). These added options open up the market for many businesses and create a chance for them to increase their ROI, as well as help their environmental measures.
Quantex pumps come in a variety of sizes and flow rates depending on the application:
- Precision Pumping
- In-Pump Dilution and Mixing
- High Vacuum Pump
- High Pressure Pump and Spray Capability
- Reverse Cycling
- Customer Lock-in
With many organisations and news outlets reporting on the benefits of utilising refillable drinking bottles and machines, it’s safe to say that this trend is set to continue to rise. Furthermore, local and national UK governments are putting further incentives in place including:
- In 2019, the European Union approved a ban on certain single-use plastics which will be implemented in all EU member countries.
- The UK government will implement a new cash incentive system, placing deposits on drinks bottles and cans to help boost recycling from 2025.
- The Welsh Government is committed to making Wales the world’s first ‘Refill Nation’.
Overall, bulk-refill and dispense solutions offer several benefits for businesses. They can help to reduce environmental impact, save money, increase customer satisfaction, and differentiate from competitors.
If you’d like to learn more or discuss how a Quantex pump could help your organisation create a game-changing refill platform, please email email@example.com or call +49 (2065) 89205-0.
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