Archives: December 2019

FMCG Futures

Our latest edition of INTOUCH identifies three trends which we believe will shape the future FMCG market.

With the awareness of the environmental impact of plastic waste having reached mass conversation for nearly every Western consumer, brands are starting to think about what they can do to effectively communicate their comprehensive ethical message to the socially conscious.

We take a focus on new ideas and approaches to retail, material choices and social impact, which will help to redefine the future of FMCG.

1/ Rethink Retail

Consumer attitudes towards waste and the importance of product sustainability are changing faster and more drastically than ever. Fuelled by the ‘Attenborough-effect‘, brands and businesses are racing to provide sustainable innovations for their customers. From implementing fast responses to the war on plastic to reimagining the retail experience, the consumer landscape is changing, and brands are fighting to keep up.

In the UK, Waitrose were amongst the first of the nation’s household name brands to experiment with a new retail experience for their customers through their service concept ‘Waitrose Unpacked‘.

Inspired by shopping experiences of yesterday, the service design is simple; in-store dispensers that allow their customers to fill and refill jars and pouches with day-to-day basics. The quantity of single-use plastic waste being removed from the average consumer basket is early evidence of ‘what-could-be’ rather than a meaningful change in the industry, however, if taken seriously by similar sized brands, it could pave the way for a new, sustainable retail landscape.

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Brands like Harry’sBirch Box and Graze have pioneered both the ‘Direct-to-Consumer’ selling model while seamlessly incorporating sustainability within their service designs. As a considered element of their offering rather than a knee-jerk reaction to the war on plastic, these brands have resonated with the modern consumer. Direct to consumer brands are bringing sustainability and convenience together. Today’s consumers are short on time but more ethically conscious than ever. Brands like Zero Co, a kick starter project from Australia, which has recently secured major backing, provide re-fill pouches of day to day household products. These can be decanted into pre-existing bottles and the pouches can be returned, re-filled, and re-distributed, closing the FMCG mass-waste inducing loop.

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2/ Material Matters

Confronting the reduction of their environmental impact through long-term behaviours has led to FMCG brands rethinking their approach to material selection which has led to vast improvements across the industry. Perhaps we must now reflect on some of the early advancements and question once again, from our current perspective, are these the most sustainable options available to us? Take for instance the cotton ‘eco’ shopping bag which, according to a UK Government study, must be reused 131 times before offsetting the global warming potential of a ‘once-used’ HDPE plastic carrier bag.

You may have noticed at this year’s London Marathon there were unusually plastic-free scenes. That’s because Lucozade used Ooho, a plastic derived from seaweed, to distribute their drinks in individual, edible capsules. This vastly reduced the quantity of single-use plastic waste. Due to its organic origins, the NOTPLA product naturally decomposes and, by only providing a membrane for the drink, reimagines how much material is necessary for our everyday products.

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Orchis, a sustainable sunglasses company, grew from taking an honest approach to the fast-fashion industry. Recognising that to change the big brand flooded industry along with the hearts and minds of its devoted consumer base was an unrealistic task, they began producing a range of sunglasses made from coffee, flax and a co-polymer. The material created decomposes after the average life-expectancy of a pair of sunglasses which Orchis estimate is 10 years. This is an example of how brands can be more in tune with consumer behaviours, life expectancy of their product and end of life outcomes, and then reflectively making responsible material decisions, forming impactful brand stories.

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3/ More Than Sustainable

The great news is that a passionate and considered effort is being exercised by businesses as consumers become aware of and aim to improve their own environmental impact. However, taking greater responsibility for their social impact through ethical activity is another effective way that brands can differentiate themselves from their competitors. Through this, with a considered, ethically-moral and environmentally conscious industry, we could see both brand and consumer ending up winners.

Aiming to reduce period poverty in the UK through a buy one, donate one product promise, Hey Girls, a Scottish period poverty charity brand, has gone beyond considering their environmental impact. Their campaigns such as #GiveACupAGo offer a sustainable alternative to traditional period care products. They work to improve period education in the local areas, funding free period products in schools across Scotland and running the ‘Pads for Dads‘ education sessions. Hey Girls are demonstrating that consumers are going beyond a single point of contention, like plastic, and looking at the wider impact of their purchase decisions.

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Now approaching their target deadline, since 2010 Coca Cola have been investing and supporting female entrepreneurs as part of a worldwide scheme, ‘5BY20‘, a pledge to support 5 Million Women by 2020. The focus of their support has been across Coca Cola’s six value categories; producers, suppliers, distributors, retailers, recyclers and artisan producers, using their considerable power to drive scale and impact. By focusing on supporting women in developing areas, who traditionally spend a large portion of their income on the health and education of children, Coca Cola ensure that they are investing in developing strong, healthy community groups.

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If you are a brand trying to carve out your position, and want to avoid contributing to waste, your challenge is to use design to create disruptive, circular systems that redefine consumer value.

Get this right and you will connect with the growth of awareness and the up-swell in consumer demand for sustainable and appropriate action.

Quite an opportunity, and one that we would like to play our part in. Let’s start a conversation. 

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