Nestlé is testing Coffee Refill Stations

At some stores in Switzerland, it’s now possible to buy Purina cat food and Nescafé coffee from new refill stations.  The refill stations, from a startup called Miwa (short for “minimum waste”), attempt to solve some of the challenges of traditional bulk bins, incorporating smart technology and closed canisters, which allows us to ensure product safety, hygiene, and also securing the freshness and traceability of the products.

The products arrive at stores in large sealed capsules. When someone wants to buy coffee, they can use a reusable “smart cup” designed for the system. Through a system app, shoppers can pay for the product on their phone immediately after filling the container.

​Convenience has been a barrier for consumers using refill stations in the past, but the new system makes the process easier. It also has advantages for brands. As a producer, you can see in real time what you are selling. The traceable capsules that go to stores can also help reduce waste in the supply chain.

It will be critical that big brands adopt these platforms, rather than just niche sustainable brands, in order for consumers to shift away from single-use packaging at a large scale. Refill stations also have to become more widely available if this way of buying is to become a success.

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