Loop reusable packaging supermarket: How it works

Reusable & sustainable food delivery sounds great, and a new service from Tesco promises to help us use less plastic.

Despite attempts by some supermarkets to cut back on single-use plastic, there’s still far more than there needs to be. A Greenpeace report in 2019 found only Waitrose, Morrisons and Tesco had actually reduced their plastic footprint in the last year.

One solution is reusable packaging. Normally this kind of thing is limited to small, local shops where you can bring your own container (more of this later). But you can also now take advantage online via a new service called Loop.

It’s actually an international brand, already running in the USA and France, and plans to expand to Germany, Canada and Japan soon. To work it partners with local supermarkets, and here in the UK, Loop is running in association with Tesco.

The idea, very simply, is you order your products and they’re all delivered in bottles, jars and other forms of packaging that can be reused on future orders.

Of course you pay more for this – but you know that in return you’re reducing the amount of plastic you use.

I’m all in favour of this type of thing. But will it realistically change how you shop?

Here’s more about Tesco’s Loop, and other ways you can use less plastic when you shop.

How does Loop work?

Shopping via Loop

All the products you buy will be in a glass or other sustainable and reusable container. There’s also no additional shipping waste, with a reusable “tote” box used instead of bags or cardboard boxes.vIt looks like the delivery is via courier. 

When you’re done, you can arrange for your containers to be collected, or hand them back when your next order comes. Loop plans to introduce drop off points too.

The containers are then cleaned and reused for future orders.

Loop and Tesco

Though it’s partnered with Tesco, you shop on a completely separate website. You can’t shop for Loop items in Tesco shops either.

This means you won’t be able to combine it with anything sold directly via Tesco. You also can’t use or earn Clubcard points.

What can you buy with Loop?

Brands on Loop

There are some big brands attached – but not many. You can buy products from Heinz, Coca Cola, Danone, Persil, Finish, Bulldog and Nivea, along with more premium beauty from Ren and Molton Brown. 

The other brands aren’t household names. There are few smaller producers, but the bulk of the items seem to be Loop’s own brand – Nevoli.

Looking at the USA and France versions there are a number more brands that perhaps could join the UK Loop in the future, including Hagen Dazs, Milka, Tropicana, Gillette and Schweppes.

Products on Loop

There’s also less choice, even within the brands. So though you can buy Heinz products, that actually just means you can buy Heinz Tomato Ketchup. Though there’s Coke, it’s just a bottle of coke or bottle of coke zero.

The other items tend to be ones that lend themselves to loose packaging, such as baking ingredients, or refillable products like shampoo.

Right now there’s also a limited selection, with more items coming soon. Even then you certainly won’t be able to do a full shop via Loop.

So items you can buy include yoghurt, nuts, laundry liquid, pretzels, pasta, rice, soap, sweets and spices, but not meat, fresh fruit, baked beans, cat food, wine or toilet paper.

But hopefully as time goes on the range will increase more and more.

How much does Loop cost?

Upfront and ongoing costs

The good news is there’s no membership fee or delivery charge for your orders. But you will pay to use Loop through the charge for the bottles, jars and boxes.

You pay a refundable deposit on every container – but you do get that back when you return them. The money goes back into your account and then when you order again, the next deposits are taken from that fund.

In a sense, if you carry on using the service, you’re essentially renting the containers. 

However, if you wish you can request for the money to be refunded. So if you stop using Loop and return all the containers then you won’t have paid any extra for these.

Shopping costs

Looking at what’s on sale right now, items do seem to cost more – but that’s no surprise. For a start, if it was cheap to provide sustainable and reusable packing en mass then everyone would do it! 

You might counter that if everything is being reused then that should work out cheaper. And maybe longer term that would make sense. But you’ve got to factor in the delivery, collection and all-important cleaning costs on top.

Plus scale will play a part. Despite Tesco’s involvement, I imagine Loop doesn’t have the huge buying power that other supermarkets have – which is also reflected in the limited range of products.

And a final additional cost is that though a handful of headline brands are involved, the vast majority of the products appear to have a premium feel. There’s no value or own-brand equivalents.

How costs compare

Let’s take a look at a few items.

Heinz Tomato Ketchup

Heinz Tomato Ketchup on Loop costs £1.45 for a 342g glass bottle, plus a 55p deposit. That’s 41.5p per 100g (58.5p with deposit).

Tesco online only sells Heinz ketchup in plastic bottles. The closest size is 460g at cost of £1.75, which is 38p per 100g.

That’s actually not too bad a difference per gram, even with the bottle deposit factored in.

But you do have the option of buying larger bottles at Tesco at 31p per gram. And you can go own brand too at an incredibly low 11p per 100g.

Coca Cola

You can buy 1 litre glass bottles of Coke from Loop at £2.49, plus a 20p bottle deposit.

At Tesco, 1.5 litres (plastic bottle) costs £1.59 (£1.10 per litre), or a pack of six 330ml cans will be £4 (£2 per litre). 

That’s a hefty premium on even multi-pack cans.

Porridge oats

On Loop, the loose porridge oats are via it’s Nevoli range. 910g costs £3.90, with £1 for the container.

Over at Tesco, a 1kg cardboard box of Scott’s Oats costs £2.20, while the own brand is £1.10 (in a plastic bag). So you’ll pay around twice as much via Loop.

That’s a significant difference, especially if your motivation is environmental and the Scott’s box can easily be recycled.

Ren Rose Body Wash

This posh body wash costs £30 for 300g on Loop with an extra £3 deposit for the bottle.

Elsewhere you’ll pay £22 for 200g direct from Ren, or £20 for the same size from John Lewis.

So in this instance you’ll pay pretty much the same. Though of course, with any beauty product it’s possible to get discounts between 10% and 20% online.

Is Loop more expensive to use?

I’ve only compared four products but you can see the price differences are mixed. 

The ketchup wasn’t too different and the shower gel was practically identical. But the coke and porridge were significantly more expensive on Loop.

And of course the lack of choice and what feels to me more premium products (on the whole) means prices are likely to be higher.

Overall, even without the deposit payments for the containers and delivery tote, you are likely to spend more getting supplies from Loop than from your supermarket.

Yet, this service isn’t about saving money. It’s about saving the planet. So whether you use the service comes down to whether you’re willing to pay that premium.

Get 10% off first order

You can use the code WELCOME10 to get a 10% discount on your first order.

> Shop at Loop

Alternative ways to reduce packaging on food & groceries 

Loop isn’t the only way you can cut the plastic on your food. Yes, you’re likely to pay more on these retailers too, but they’re worth exploring.

Milk & More

Remember the milkman? For most people it’s a distant memory but you can still get your milk delivered to your door in glass bottles via Milk & More. Bottles are collected and reused.

You can also order other items, from alternative milks to bread or meat, though the packaging won’t be too different from buying items in the supermarket.

Local refill shops

From health food shops to farm shops to dedicated “bring your own” container shops, it’s worth finding out what’s in your local area.

A small retailer around the corner from us sells everything from flour to nuts which can be dispensed into whatever you bring along.

Buy loose fruit and vegetables

It’s a real shame how much fresh produce is already packed at the supermarket. Sometimes you don’t have a choice, especially at smaller local and express outlets, but in the bigger shops you should be able to get most things loose instead of packaged.

You also don’t need to put loose things in a small plastic bag. I put them in the trolley and then into my tote bags at the checkout.

It’s also worth checking out local veg box deliveries.

Take your own canvas bags

Though single use plastic bags have been largely phased out of mainstream retailers, the bags for life are still plastic.

Interestingly, producing canvas bags uses more carbon, but they’ll also last a lot longer and can be recycled, repaired or reused.

Whatever bags you take, keep using them again and again rather than buying new ones at the checkout.

We always have some spare ones in the boot of the car in case we forget. And if you have a handbag or bag on you most of the time, you can get small, foldable ones that should fit inside so there’s always something on you.


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