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Hubbub outlines challenges and opportunities for reusable food and drink packaging

Environmental charity Hubbub has launched ‘Reuse Systems Unpacked’, a report uncovering the challenges and opportunities for reusable food and drink packaging systems.

The report, unveiled at The Royal Society of Arts in the presence of key players in the sector, provides recommendations on how reusable packaging systems can work and what needs to happen for such systems to be used by consumers and become mainstream.

The research was funded by Bunzl and involved in-depth interviews with 40 organisations and individuals in the sphere of reusable food and drink packaging, from start-ups and small-scale trials to big brands and events, as well as people in the fields of policy, academia and logistics, including Tesco, DEFRA, Just Eat and Abel & Cole.

Hubbub also commissioned polling across the UK to gather public opinion on the motivators and barriers to individuals engaging in reuse systems for food and drink packaging.

The survey of 3,000 people shows a clear public appetite to cut down on single-use plastics, with 67% of people saying they want to reduce the amount of single-use packaging they use when buying food and drink products.  73% think more needs to be done to make it easier to use reusable alternatives and 67% said they’d be open to borrowing and returning a reusable container for groceries.

The research also identified the main motivators and barriers to people using reusable packaging schemes for food and drink. Price is the main motivator with 2 out of 5 people saying that being able to use the reusable packaging scheme for no extra cost would encourage them. Earning rewards or discounts for using a scheme, as well as knowing that it reduces waste and is better for the environment than single use packaging, would encourage 38% of the public.

In terms of barriers, concerns that the packaging might not be clean or hygienic was mentioned by 38% of respondents, followed by thinking it might cost more money (31%) and having to carry or store the packaging until it can be returned (27%).

Key recommendations  

Hubbub has identified 10 key recommendations to help reuse systems set up and scale: 

  1. Convenience is key: minimise the friction points and fit into people’s current patterns of behaviour.
  2. Keep the price down: the price needs to be as close as possible to single-use.
  3. Choose the right incentives: they play an important role to encourage use and returns, but deposits can put people off and rewards can lead to over-complication.
  4. Integrate logistics: innovation is needed here, such as creating centralised logistics networks in cities, backhauling through existing systems and developing new washing processes.
  5. Be smart with packaging design: clever design is about more than aesthetics; it integrates tech, encourages returns and reduces the environmental footprint of packaging and transport.
  6. Understand the lifecycle analysis: a consistent process needs to be established to work out the environmental impact of reuse systems in a way that’s accurate and comparable.
  7. Collaborate: a system working across multiple brands, locations and platforms will be more convenient and less confusing for users.
  8. Consider the role of tech: tech can simplify payments, deposit refunds, rewards and tracking usage, but it can complicate the user journey and put off some audiences.
  9. Offer reassurance: the public have concerns around hygiene which can be addressed through a robust washing process supported by good communications.
  10. Support through policy: a range of potential policies, standards, incentives and subsidies would support the growth of reusable systems.

Alex Robinson, CEO of Hubbub, said: “To effectively tackle the issue of packaging waste, reuse must become mainstream. For this to happen, it’s crucial that companies across the food & drink industry, along with policymakers, work together and learn from each other. The ‘Reuse Systems Unpacked’ report is the first of its kind and brings together the findings from existing schemes and systems, along with insight into public attitudes towards reusable packaging. It’s clear the public are hungry for change. We hope this report helps to accelerate progress across the food and drink industry and drives us quickly towards a society where reusable food and drink packaging is the norm.”

James Pitcher, Head of Sustainability at Bunzl plc, said: “It’s been a long-held mantra of Bunzl that the life of packaging does not end at the point of sale and our ambition doesn’t either. We have been using our scale and unique position at the centre of the supply chain to work with our customers and suppliers to lead the industry towards a more sustainable approach to packaging. To move away from a linear mindset to a more circular one we need to understand the opportunities and challenges involved, which is why we’re pleased to have supported this work. The circular economy has to go mass market to be effective and research like this means we’ll understand what’s collectively required to reach a macro-solution sooner.”

Hubbub has extensive experience of encouraging reuse through a series of campaigns and partnerships including the recent launch of the Bring It Back Fund, a £1m fund in partnership with Starbucks to support reusable food and drink packaging systems.

For more information and to read the report, visit www.hubbub.org.uk/reuse-systems-unpacked.

The Government Food Strategy: More research, policies and further consultation needed

The National Food Strategy published in the summer of 2021, was the first comprehensive review of the food system in 75 years, undertaken by an extensive panel of experts with detailed evidence-based recommendations. It resulted in the Government committing to release a White Paper to take forward or reject the suggestions it made.

The catering sector eagerly awaited its publication, with the hope that decisive inroads could be made into improving the health of the nation. The latest Government Food Strategy has now been published.

Here, two of the allmanhall team take a look: Tess Warnes BSc RD, company dietitian at allmanhall and Joe Evans, a non-executive director of allmanhall and current Chairman of the Environment Committee for The Country Land and Business Association. Together they address the recommendations, what this means for food supply, key take-outs and actions for caterers, and whether the latest report delivers on earlier promises and expectations…

A key theme of The National Food Strategy was to manage obesity and food poverty by equally addressing issues of diet and sustainability, with particular attention on a tax on sugar and salt and reducing meat consumption whilst increasing fruit and vegetable intake. The theme throughout the newly published Government Food Strategy Report appears to be a considerable lack of action, and instead references the need for more evidence and policies before committing to progress.

Tess Warnes BSc RD, company dietitian at allmanhall comments: “the main outcome seems to be the need for more research, policies and further consultation before any concrete actions can take place.

At allmanhall, we support catering teams with nutrition and dietetic improvements, so were hopeful that the Government would by now be in a position to implement some of the suggested changes. Instead, they seem to be shying away from any bold transformative recommendations, in particular issues around health and tackling obesity.”

Joe Evans, non-executive director of allmanhall and current Chairman of the Environment Committee for The Country Land and Business Association, goes on to critique the report from a farming and supply angle and whether it sufficiently addresses food security, balanced with sustainability.

“There is still significant thought required to address the acute challenges to supply chain resilience when it comes to farm producers, too. There are currently 9 main risks* to the UK food production supply chain. These need to be augmented with the very sensible and necessary drive towards Sustainable Farming practices.” The team at allmanhall go on to say they very much hope to see further evolutions of the Food Strategy to ensure a balanced approach.

So, what are the outcomes of the latest Food Strategy, and how far do they go to address the key issues of diet and sustainability?

The Government is suggesting further consultation is needed in a number of areas before any concrete actions can be undertaken;

  • Consult on the ambition for half of public sector expenditure to be spent on food produced locally or to higher environmental standards
  • Consult on how to improve on and expand animal welfare labelling
  • £270m to be invested across farming innovation to drive sustainable farming
  • Consult on food waste
  • Explore innovative feed additives that can reduce methane emissions
  • Launch a new partnership between public and private sector to provide consumers with more information about the food they eat while incentivising industry to produce healthier, more ethical and sustainable goods
  • Undertake trials to develop evidenced-based interventions to encourage healthier more sustainable diets
  • Enhanced monitoring regarding School Food Standards.

On the serious issues of obesity and food poverty, the responsibility has been handed over to be dealt with by the Health Disparities White Paper, which is currently due to be published later this year.

The report very much emphasises on the rising cost of living as a reason for not making any drastic changes, such as taxing sugar and salt. This had been a key recommendation from the National Food Strategy, but it has been completely ignored in this policy. We have seen how effective mandatory interventions can be, as evidenced by the UK’s Soft Drinks Industry Levy led to a 29% reduction in the average sugar content of soft drinks (2).

The UK has now the third highest rates of obesity in the G7. Almost three in ten of our adult population are obese (1) meaning bold actions are needed now. The report acknowledges the Junk Food Cycle, as described in the National Food Strategy, but then does not go on to action any suggested solutions. Instead, it focuses more on individuals taking responsibility for their health. As we have seen with the continuing rising rates of obesity it is unrealistic to expect a reduction in body weight solely through individual willpower (3).

Due to the number of people in food poverty, which will likely worsen due to the rising cost of food, it is concerning that the recommendation to extend the eligibility criteria for free school meals has been ignored. Analysis from Child Poverty Action Group suggests 1 in 3 school-age children in England living in poverty miss out on free school meals. (4)

There is very little reference to the recommendations to alter our diet profile by increasing fruit and veg by 30%, fibre by 50% and reducing HFHS foods by 25% and meat by 30%. There is no reference to reducing meat or diary at all, and instead a focus on using different farming methods to reduce methane, despite the National Food Strategy evidencing that we simply cannot reduce methane emissions to a safe level, nor free up the land we need for sequestering carbon, without reducing the amount of meat we eat (5).

So where does this leave caterers? What can catering teams being doing now rather than waiting?

Tess Warnes BSc RD suggests that “with very little decided upon now, and so much hanging in the balance requiring further clarification, while we wait for further direction and policy from the Government, caterers can proactively start implementing some actions themselves.”

  • Introduction of meat free days
  • A ban on certain meats
  • One vegan or vegetarian option added to menu design
  • A minimum of two portions of vegetables per meal, already in line with existing school standards, widened into other sectors
  • Consider calling things on a menu ‘vegetable’ rather than ‘vegetarian’
  • Working with suppliers or procurement provider to understand the whole supply chain rather than just the last mile
  • Ask allmanhall about undertaking carbon impact assessment of menus
  • Address food waste in the catering operation – both sustainability and economically beneficial.

Finally, Warnes comments: “It’s incredibly frustrating that after all this time since the National Food Strategy was commissioned in 2019, we are not much further along with improving the health of the nation. Action is needed now to help reduce obesity and to create a sustainable food system. We will now await the publication of the health disparities white paper due out later this year in the hope that these issues are more thoroughly addressed.” Evans adds “It seems that the reality of conditions of farming are not currently conducive to also helping improve food security through increased domestic self-sufficiency.  This conflict needs to be addressed through the Government Food Strategy.”

*See allmanhall.co.uk/blog for details


  1. Bain analysis for the NFS. 1955 mean BMI interpolated from US historic BMI trends and UK BMI from 1977 onwards. Distribution before 1980 is directional using normal distributions around mean value and, therefore, is not an exact representation. Source: NHS Digital. (2018). Health Survey for England 2017 [NS]. NHS Digital. Available at:https://digital.nhs. uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/health-surveyfor-england/2017; Euromonitor. (2019); NHS Digital.(2019). National Child Measurement Programme; Gov.UK. (2018); Population Pyramid. (2019); Davey, R. (2003) The obesity epidemic: too much food for thought?; The trend of BMI values of US adults by centiles, birth cohorts 1882–1986, National Bureau of Economic Research, 2010.
  2. Scarborough, P. et al. (2020). Impact of the announcement and implementation of the UK Soft Drinks Industry Levy on sugar content, price, product size and number of available soft drinks in the UK, 2015–19: A controlled interrupted time series analysis. PLOS Medicine, 17(2), p.e1003025. Available at: https://journals.plos.org/ plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1003025
  3. Adams, J. et al. (2016). Why Are Some Population Interventions for Diet and Obesity More Equitable and Effective Than Others? The Role of Individual Agency. PLOS Medicine, 13(4) .Available at: https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal. pmed.1001990
  4. Child Poverty Action Group. Accessed online June 22 https://cpag.org.uk/news-blogs/news-listings/800000-children-poverty-not-getting-free-school-meals?utm_source=Sustain&utm_campaign=e1d5c654a2-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2022_05_09_01_53_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d2d28e0c33-e1d5c654a2-261693085
  5. National Food Strategy Independent Review. The Plan July 2021. Accesses online file:///C:/Users/Lara/Downloads/25585_1669_NFS_The_Plan_July21_S12_New-1%20(1).pdf

Do you specialise in Supply Chain Software? We want to hear from you!

Each month on Supply Chain Briefing we’ll be shining the spotlight on a different part of the logistics market – and in July we’ll be focussing on Supply Chain Software.

It’s all part of our ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help supply chain industry buyers find the best products and services available today.

So, if you specialise in Supply Chain Software and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Nick Stannard on n.stannard@forumevents.co.uk.

Our features list in full:-

Jul – Supply Chain Software
Aug – Logistics & Operations Management
Sept – Labelling & Packaging
Oct – 3PL & 4PL
Nov – Order Fulfilment
Dec – Transport Planning & Load Optimisation

Modi’s vision for India ‘makes economic powerhouse crucial partner’ for Britain

UK Trade Secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, is meeting with India’s trade chief, Piyush Goyal, on Friday for the fourth round of talks on a trade deal between both countries.

This is a matter of urgency for the government, as officials rush to get the agreement over the line by October 24.

India is predicted to grow at the fastest rate this year – beating the likes of China – with an expected 7.3% increase in GDP. With publicly traded companies doubling in profit, alongside exports reaching a record high, India’s booming success has largely been credited to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise to the nation in 2019 to double the size of the economy by 2024. This would lift the country into a $5 trillion (or more) club alongside the US, China and Japan.

The UK–India investment relationship between is already worth £24bn and supports more than half a million jobs across the UK, however this looks set to grow exponentially after the FTA is secured.

As countries worldwide begin to reconsider trade relationships, Modi’s vision for India has made him a crucial figure in bridging the West and East for mutually beneficial purposes. This intent is particularly clear in the UK-India trade talks which are in their latter stages and have become a top priority for both sides, especially given what the countries stand to gain from the agreement. This would also mark a huge victory for Boris Johnson post-Brexit, and add some much-needed fuel to a wavering UK economy.

Britain’s stunted growth in the tech sector specifically is clearly disrupting the economy as a whole, with research from JPIN, the largest bilateral investment bank across the UK and India, finding that 25% of the UK workforce state that the absence of tech talent in their business is stunting their growth.

Further to this, 36% of the workforce cite a lack of skilled talent more generally as the biggest factor holding back their firm. As Britain continues to navigate the current economic situation, the prime minister has made it clear India presents a massive opportunity to help the country return to its days of being the world’s leading digital hub.

Dubbed as Asia’s Silicon Valley, India’s $3 trillion economy – home to 25% of the world’s engineers – will assist the UK with strengthening cyber security, science, tech innovation, and education. India’s young and dynamic population of 1.39m people is set to assist with bolstering Britain’s digitalisation plans in the next few decades. Recently, the largest ever delegation of UK universities met with India’s key and central government officials to scout for New Education Policy (NEP) aligned collaborations. Further to this, the UK government recently introduced the High Potential Individual (HPI) visa scheme in an attempt to future-proof the country by creating sound building blocks for the skilled sectors.

Nayan Gala, founder of JPIN, said: “India is one of the world’s largest economies and presents huge potential as a key partner for trade and investment for the UK. India is a 21st century powerhouse and therefore, establishing a solid relationship with the UK in trade, technology and security could be significantly beneficial for both parties. The significance of the relationship between both parties cannot be underestimated.

“It’s clear that closing the trade deal is a top priority for the government, and there appears to be fewer stumbling blocks as we edge closer to the finish line. India is goods and resource-wealthy, growing exponentially, and will be the centre of world trade in the coming decades. Therefore, building a trade and technology relationship here is particularly important to allow the UK to benefit from the immense growth India is already experiencing.

“In what looks to be the final round of discussions, we are likely to see a continued focus on alleviating Britain’s pressure in the tech and programming sector. The discussion will also look to ways that the deal could help with small businesses in both countries, especially because the levelling-up agenda is such as pressing matter for the UK government. These talks will look to future-proof the economy, and it’s fantastic to see that it’s slowly coming to fruition.”

Supply chain crisis sees 85% of businesses move to ‘just in case’ model

Almost every UK organisation admits their supply chain needs improving, and over half (58%) think their supply chain needs a lot/significant improvement.

That’s according to research from SAP, which says that in response, 84% of UK businesses are planning to move on from the 50-year-old ‘just in time’ supply chain model, which prioritised costs above all else when selecting suppliers, to a ‘just in case’ approach. 

The findings from the “Tomorrow’s Supply Chain: Disruption Around Every Corner” report highlights that since the start of the pandemic, supply chain issues have been disastrous for organisations in the UK. 66% of businesses have experienced delays in production of goods/delivery of services, 64% have seen revenues decrease and 58% have experienced a loss of customers.

Given this outlook, it perhaps comes as little to no surprise that almost a quarter (23%) of businesses expect supply chain issues to last until Summer 2023.  

Earlier this year, the UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “The supply chain crisis felt by so many businesses could in fact provide an impetus for companies to improve productivity, and thus ensuring higher wages are not cancelled out by rising inflation”.  

But the picture for UK businesses tells a different story. For many businesses, increasing the price of their products/services isn’t an option to cover increases in supply chain costs. Instead staff will bear the brunt of any cost rise as 68% expect wage/recruitment freezes and 61% plan job cuts. 

SAP says UK businesses are looking to the government for supply chain recommendations, but they are torn over the advantages and disadvantages of deglobalisation: 

  • 60% of businesses want increased government collaboration with industry  
  • Over half said the government should monitor the UK’s supply chain itself and invest where necessary (56%) and there is demand for increased industrial policy and trade policy (54%) 
  • The majority (72%) of UK businesses think deglobalising the UK’s supply chains would be disastrous to economic growth but over half (56%) plan to prioritise UK-based supply chain solutions. 

Michiel Verhoeven, Managing Director SAP UK & Ireland, said: “The challenges and uncertainty facing so many UK businesses has meant that, for the majority of consumers, the days of wandering into a supermarket and seeing full shelves of produce now seem like a distant memory. 

“Where once supply chain management was mostly about cutting costs, businesses are faced with the challenge of staying ahead of consumer demand, while improving resilience, cutting carbon emissions, reducing staff churn and keeping costs down. Years of political, social and economic uncertainty, on top of a global pandemic, have exacerbated challenges with the UK’s current supply chain models. Whatever future external factors disrupt the movement of goods/ services, our on-demand consumer culture is only going to increase. Overnight shipping is considered late, with hourly tracking updates expected. A novel approach is needed to meet this demand.”  

Global logistics, consulting and manufacturing organisation, Unipart Group, recently announced a deepened partnership with SAP to deliver supply chain resilience and bring to life its extensive expertise in forecasting, Machine Learning, sensors and data & analytics.  

Commenting on the report findings, Unipart Logistics Managing Director, Ian Truesdale, said: “Although deglobalisation and other structural changes to supply chains like re-shoring may help UK economic growth, the changes and hence opportunities are more complex. We are seeing that growth can be increased further by developing a much more sophisticated approach to understanding patterns of demand and the impact of those changes along the supply chain to manage risks and prevent shortages.  

“It’s why we are re-engineering our processes and streamlining our data to focus on process design and governance, operational execution and data & analytics. In doing so we, aim to have the ability to forecast, optimise and simulate supply chains to provide greater agility and resilience,” he added.  

Elsewhere, findings from the study show that UK businesses are exploring various other avenues to improve their supply chains, in particular adopting new technology and implementing new contingency measures: 

  • 70% plan to adopt new technology to help overcome challenges in the next 1-2 years 
  • 51% plan to find new environmentally friendly supply chain solutions 

Michiel concluded: “It is exciting to see so many organisations are realising the importance of investing in advancing technologies to innovate and that are planning to adopt new environmentally supply chain solutions. Resilient supply chains must be sustainable, not only in terms of the environment, but sustainable against developments in technology and infrastructure in the UK and abroad. For decades, supply chain management has focussed on cost – where keeping them lean and fast has been the priority. This is different from being agile and resilient. With the end of ‘just in time’ models, businesses have to start putting the same expectations on their supply chain as they do on their wider business, structuring themselves to be ‘just in case’, so that when disaster occurs, they can adapt. Those who don’t make this change are in for a very tough 18 months.”