Deposit Machine Accepts Packaging
Reusable containers for beverages have long been the norm. Now, packaging for coffee or cocoa, for example, should also be able to end up in the deposit machines. This is made possible by stainless steel containers from the Frankfurt-based start-up company Circolution, which are compatible with existing deposit machines in supermarkets. The resulting new returnable system can be extended to all food segments and sales channels, explain companies such as Nestlé, which are participating in it.
Start-up Circolution GmbH has co-developed, produced and is now building a new reusable solution. “Our system relies on standardization and is open to all food producers – large or small, organic or conventional, brand or private label. This is very important to us, otherwise reusable makes no sense,” says Max Bannasch, co-founder and CEO of Circolution. Circolution rents the reusable containers to food manufacturers for a packaging-as-a-service fee, takes care of cleaning, inspection and transport, and provides data for measuring the ecological impact. In the process, the solution can make a massive contribution to eliminating the waste problem. Material-agnostic and open to new shapes and sizes, Circolution is working on many packaging modules “to offer reusable alternatives where it makes sense.” The Frankfurt-based startup has built a coalition of partners with tech companies needed to make the switch to reusable.
“Anita in Steel” is the name of the first packaging solution, which is ideally suited for food with a long shelf life thanks to gas-tight sealing. For retailers, the processes are similar to conventional deposit bottles. For consumers, it is the same: they buy a coffee or cocoa product in the new reusable packaging, pay a deposit at the checkout, enjoy the product at home, return the container and the lid to the normal reverse vending machine in the participating supermarket, and get their deposit back. Only an aluminum foil must be disposed of in the yellow bag. After the return, the containers are automatically cleaned, checked and delivered for a new life cycle. To optimize logistical processes as well as financial and environmental efficiency, the packaging is digitally recorded at each recycling station.
Nesquik packaging from Nestlé in the vending machines
Currently, circolution is field testing “Anita” with three brands – Nestlé’s “Nesquik,” “Hoppenworth & Ploch” and “BE.AN.” In the third quarter of 2023, additional products in the category of coffee, cocoa and similar products are to be available in “Anita in Steel” in the Rhine-Main region. In this second phase, acceptance among customers will be tested: How will Hesse react to the new offer?
The founders of the new system are confident that “Anita” can ecologically beat disposable packaging made of both glass and plastic, for example. After about five life cycles, the ecological impact is equivalent to that of disposable glass packaging, they say. “However, since the stainless steel cup will live another 75 times, this will make 75 disposable glass packages superfluous. So “Anita in Steel” can save about 36 kilograms of glass. For plastic, that figure is five kilograms.”
Nestlé supported the Circolution team in packaging development as well as production. Packaging experts at Nestlé’s Product and Technology Center for Milk in Konolfingen, Switzerland, worked with Circolution to develop the stainless steel containers. The Nestlé team was responsible for product protection, laboratory testing and preparation for production,” explained Bernd Büsing, head of packaging at Nestlé Germany.
Hoppenworth & Ploch, a Frankfurt-based coffee roasting company, is also a Circolution partner. “We aim for each generation of our packaging to be better than the previous one,” said Julian Ploch, co-founder of the coffee roasting company. “So we are testing ,BE.AN’ – our new launch destined for nationwide food – in a reusable container.” The Amcor company provides the Alufix sealing film, which assures the integrity of the product and therefore the safety of consumers. The film leaves no residue, which is both convenient for consumers and allows the container to be resealed after cleaning.
Other companies participating: Avery Dennison is bringing the versatile look of containers to the shelves with labeling materials that provide outstanding quality throughout a product’s use life, yet can be completely removed from the container during washing. Hobart assists with hygienic and sustainable warewashing and the initial set-up of the wash process.
Tomra has been supporting Circolution in the development of the reusable containers since the beginning of 2021 to ensure a smooth return process through existing reverse vending machines.
Optima’s machine solutions and technologies ensure that the reusable containers are designed in the best possible way for automated dosing, filling, capping and packaging. At the heart of the matter is that the manufacturer can later fill its product efficiently and safely in high output quantities. IFCO is providing the collapsible transport containers for the retail pilot of “Anita in Steel.” IFCO’s foldable crates allow for logistical efficiency and careful use of resources.
Circolution is looking for additional food manufacturers in the coffee and cocoa sector to bring more products to supermarkets in the Rhine-Main region in the third quarter of 2023. Once the regional pilot phase is successfully completed, the system will later be rolled out across Germany.