How Personalized Home Delivery Models Could Spur Successful Reuse Systems
March 23, 2023
Georgia Sherwin, Senior Director at Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy interviews Bruno Ballester, ROYAL CANIN Individualization Senior Product Owner. ROYAL CANIN® offers customized pet food and home delivery in reusable packaging to meet the diverse needs of pet owners and in the process has generated interesting learnings about reuse adoption.
- In a nutshell, can you describe the reusable packaging system implemented by ROYAL CANIN and how it works?
Since June 2022, ROYAL CANIN®, a brand of Mars, Inc, has been partnering with reusable packaging innovator RePack to offer a sustainable solution for home deliveries of ROYAL CANIN IndividualisTM pet food refill orders in France, representing thousands of orders per month. ROYAL CANIN® IndividualisTM is an on-demand, individualized nutritional program created to answer every pet’s unique health needs. Pet owners receive their ROYAL CANIN order in returnable RePack delivery packaging. Once empty, the RePack packaging can be returned through the postal system for free, after which it is cleaned and reused. The packaging can go through this process up to 20 times. The reuse delivery packaging guarantees intact quality of our products at delivery.
After 20 cycles, analysis shows that RePack packaging results in only 0.1kg of waste and 0.9kg of CO2 emitted, compared to 3kg of waste and 4.4kg of CO2 for a cardboard box. The process represents a reduction of 80% of CO2 when comparing the lifecycle of a RePack bag to disposable packaging. We are now exploring potential opportunities to expand this project to the rest of Europe and North America.
- Why did you decide to implement a reuse model for ROYAL CANIN®? What factors contributed to it?
ROYAL CANIN® is committed to furthering sustainability across all our operations, knowing that reuse, recycling and upcycling packaging are key contributions in alleviating the impact of our activity and helping create a healthy future for pets, people and the planet. We also signed the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, which encourages responsible behavior and calls for collective engagement to ensure a common vision of a circular economy for plastic, in which it never becomes waste or pollution.
We feel that reuse habits have been lost to today’s dominant single-use, disposable culture, but we think reuse is a trend that is coming back and could become the norm.
This opt-out model for reuse has helped ensure momentum.
- How has customer adoption evolved over time since the launch of the program?
Customer adoption of the reusable RePack packaging program has been a great success. Importantly, while we leave the choice to our customers to ask if they prefer to switch back to the previous packaging approach, after several thousand orders, no customer has asked to change. This opt-out model for reuse has helped ensure momentum. We also inserted a QR code to collect feedback after each order and the overwhelming feedback from customers was positive. The program received a Net Promoter Score of 76, which indicates that the majority of customers are satisfied and would recommend the approach. In fact, a lot of customers noted they were surprised this type of solution isn’t being deployed more widely and becoming the norm.
A couple of great customer quotes about the reusable packaging system worth highlighting include, “I think it’s an excellent idea, congratulations to the inventor”, “I love it”, “a perfect solution”, “it is a very good initiative. I hope that many companies will follow this”, and “I find this idea great and very practical.” This kind of feedback is really encouraging for us to continue to push the bounds of sustainability initiatives. Beyond our net promoter score increasing, which indicates positive customer satisfaction, we’ve also saved time from an operations perspective by packing parcels with RePack vs. cardboard boxes.
- What’s been the biggest challenge for the program?
There are many different considerations when it comes to reuse. We usually ship our premium pet food in protective cardboard boxes to preserve the quality and the health benefits of the finished product up to the point of final consumption. Therefore, we had to ensure RePack packaging was strong enough to guarantee intact quality at delivery. It was also important for us to monitor and measure the feasibility of the program: how can we offer reusable packaging for each customer each month without increasing the costs? Should this solution cover several countries, or should we select one single country? And we kept a constant eye on customer satisfaction––are customers willing to return the packaging each month?
- What did it take to get the program off the ground? What key stakeholders and resources were involved?
ROYAL CANIN® ran a test over two months with 15 pet owners and sent them their refill order in a RePack packaging. They agreed to share their experience during individual interviews. This first test was very successful and received, on average, a rating of 4.8/5. Customers reported that RePack was: 1) Easy to use 2) Sustainable 3) A good solution for e-commerce. This valuable feedback helped us scale the reusable packaging project, whilst also recognizing what information was most relevant to French customers.
We also organized a workshop in our warehouse in France where all ROYAL CANIN® Individualis™ orders are prepared, packed and shipped. We met with the RePack team to review the order preparation as we were kicking off the first orders for the small pilot.
The product packaging size can vary significantly depending on if it is for a cat or a large dog for example, and therefore we usually need three sizes of cardboard boxes. The three sizes of RePack allowed us to meet our packaging needs perfectly. We tried RePack’s different sealing methods to find the most efficient and secure one for us. We tested the solidity of the packaging with a test and validated an International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) certification certifying that RePack packaging protected the pet food during transport.