Supermarket with no packaging launched in Berlin

A supermarket claiming to sell groceries without packaging has opened in Berlin.

The founders of the supermarket with no packaging, Sara Wolf and Milena Glimbovski, say there’s a rising demand for products and services that deal with sustainability and that people demand alternatives to the ‘lavish’ handling of our resources.

The idea works like this: All of Original Unverpackt’s dry goods – rice, cereal, spices – are stored in large dispenser bins, and customers fill containers they have either brought with them or purchased in the store. Liquid goods such as juice or yogurt are sold in jars or bottles with a deposit on them (already an all-but-mandatory system in Germany anyway).

There is no minimum limit on how much customers buy, and to ensure that they get a fair deal, the containers that customers bring are weighed and marked accordingly when they enter the shop. Around 80% of the store’s products are organic, and while the origin of each product is listed next to the price per kilo, no brand-name products are sold.

“Here, the customer only takes what they need,” says Wolf and Glimbovski ahead of the launch of their Berlin-Kreuzberg shop. “We’d like to offer an alternative way of shopping – one where we offer everything you need but you won’t find hundreds of different types of body lotion or olive oil.”

“This is a quirky marketing idea but it is nothing more,” commented Pelican’s Michael Bennett.

“Whilst I have no doubt that this is a well-intentioned initiative it fundamentally misunderstands the role of packaging in preserving and protecting food.”

He added: “I have said many times that the packaging industry should be more effective in promoting the vital role it plays in delivering food to our tables. Whilst the industry has a duty to minimise packaging, eye-catching gimmicks like this do little more than preserve prejudices about packaging.”

Original Unverpackt isn’t a new idea. Austin, Texas, has In.Gredients and Catherine Conway founded London-based Unpackaged – first in Islington in 2007 before it moved to Hackney in 2012. It closed the following year after the original business model changed to include a restaurant and a bar. All three are independent shops exploring the psychology of food and consumption.

For more information read reports from The Guardian and CityLab.

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