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L’Occitane is testing in-store refillable shower gels

Because of the growing collective sense of awareness, the bulk and refillable trend, in line with a zero-waste approach, has extended from the food sector to products on our bathroom shelves. As a precursor of the concept, L’Occitane wishes to promote this mode of eco-design and is currently testing in several stores the possibility of refilling, at the source, its shower gel bottles, using an appropriate and innovative technology.

Corinne Fugier-Garrel, L'Occitane

Corinne Fugier-Garrel, L’Occitane

The concept of reusable pack is gaining ground in the beauty hygiene sector. Like some other brands in the category, L’Occitane already offers eco-refills in the form of a Doypack for certain references. But to be even more eco-friendly, the brand is considering eliminating the use of this refill pack and replacing it with a fountain solution.

"Eco-design is the essential motivation for this initiative. Refilling one’s bottle is the best solution for reducing the plastic footprint," believed Corinne Fugier-Garrel, Packaging concept Development Director at L’Occitane en Provence.

Hence, since June 2019, the brand has been experimenting the concept with three in-store refillable shower gels, in three of its L’Occitane POS in Provence (southern France), Germany and Spain.

"The idea emerged in November 2018. Because this was urgent matter, we decided to speed up things and developed the project in six months only, by daring to bank on a completely novel technique. We wanted to see how consumers would react," explained Corinne Fugier-Garrel.

The experiment involves three successful brand references: Verveine Classique, Verveine Karité and Verveine Agrumes. "We chose popular products, for which we know customers would come back in stores asking for more".

To develop a fountain specifically adapted to the shower gel, L’Occitane called on its partner, Marie Laure PLV, a company specialized in POS furniture.

We had to take into account the fact that the shower gel does not flow naturally when you want to fill a bottle in a short time. This means that the liquid has to be both pushed and sucked to fill a bottle in less than a minute," explained the Project Manager, who also added that the work to improve the machines was continuing with the experiment.

Reflecting the spirit of the brand, bottles are aluminium standard packs that come in 250- and 500-ml formats at the price of 3 and 5 euros when purchased the first time. The consumer can then choose his bulk shower gel at one of the fountain taps. A pump is also offered free of charge as an option, with the mention "non-recyclable element."

We made sure that the price of the bottle with the gel was equal to the price of the classic product. The first time, the operation is therefore neutral for the consumer who then only pays for the refill operation, which is between 25 and 30% cheaper than a full new bottle. There is therefore also a financial incentive behind to motivate the refilling."

Guaranteed traceability

The bulk shower gel comes in 5 litre containers with a batch number. Each filled bottle is labelled by a store assistant, with the legal notices, the list of ingredients and the batch number marked on the bottle.

The gel is transferred by the machine in a closed circuit, thus eliminating the risk of bacterial contamination. The cleanliness of the empty bottle to refill, remains nevertheless the consumer’s responsibility.

It is still too early, according to the project manager, to make a first assessment, but L’Occitane aims to soon extend the experimentation, as part of a second pilot test, involving some 30 to 50 POS internationally.

Kristel Milet

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