REWE Group - Marc-James Bright-Asare

German retail chain REWE is selling pasta, rice, cereal, and other foods in reusable and returnable containers using Miwa Technologies’ waste-reducing dispenser modules – aiming to cut down on unnecessary packaging and food waste.

The trial will make use of second-generation Miwa modules, which feature a newly integrated two-line display with scales. This enables customers to view product quantity and the corresponding price in real-time.

New electronics and software have been applied to upgrade the entire system, while larger products that would not have fit through the capsule opening of previous iterations are now compatible. The modules now use integrated vibrations to help dispense foods that could otherwise become stuck during the pouring process.

Consumers are encouraged to pick up a reusable, returnable container in-store, in which case the price of the packaging is added onto that of the product, or to bring their own from home for free. Once their container has been weighed, consumers can select their desired product and place the packaging on the feeder.

Finally, the module prints a price tag for the customer to stick to the container and take to the checkout. After use, store-bought containers can be returned through machines in REWE shops and other partners.

Miwa’s retail chain solution is expected to save almost 2,000 pieces of disposable packaging per container during its life cycle. It is based primarily on reusable standardized capsules circulating between manufacturers, shops, and the service centre, as well as the maximized use of smart data.

To avoid direct handling of open food during pouring and other processes, the product is delivered in closed capsules to be inserted straight into the module – a process set to benefit both hygiene and shelf life.

“For us, this is the largest pilot project in the retail segment so far,” says Mirek Lizec, executive director at Miwa. “Other chains initially test our technology in only one to three shops, here it will be eleven shops.

“Germany is an interesting market for us, which is very receptive to ecological solutions, and reusable packaging is supported by a large part of the public there, as well as by the new legislation.

“The management of the chain was very interested in the hygienic and digital standards of our solution, in the safety and efficiency of sales. They also appreciated that our modules are user-friendly and easy for customers to understand.

“We are happy that we manage to establish cooperation with such important players even though the European retail market now has to recover from a series of problems such as inflation, the war in Ukraine, the repercussions of COVID and the like.”

The development comes after Miwa was awarded €5 million in funding via the European Innovation Council’s EIC Accelerator programme earlier this year.

In similar developments, GoUnpackaged, Aldi UK, Ocado Retail, and CHEP are piloting an in-store refill system for dry goods sold at Aldi’s Solihull store and online, while UKRI hopes to encourage brands, retailers, and consumers to adopt reusable and refillable packaging with a £1.5 million competition for Liquid Food and Beverages in Refillable Packaging to its Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging (SSPP) Challenge.

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