Investigating customer perceptions of refillable packaging and assessing business drivers and barriers to their use

A collaborative UK government-funded research project drawing on the design and sustainability expertise of the Department of Design and Technology at Loughborough University and the sustainability and product bank functions at The Boots Company set out to investigate the potential that refillable packaging systems can offer the consumer and the environment. In the past, refills have generally been categorized under one general heading and often branded as a failure. However, early in the project, the team identified that by taking a creative approach to interpreting refills, there are actually a wide range of different types of refills that can be differentiated with respect to their delivery approach and level of consumer/business interaction. Once these had been identified, collated and categorized, the team set out to investigate the consumer perceptions, and the business barriers and drivers found to influence the adoption and success of a number of different types of refillable packaging. This paper reports on those findings. It concludes that differentiating between refill types holds the key to developing more suitable and more successful refillable packaging systems as positive and negative attributes can be more accurately identified and responded to.