As part of its work to bring reusable packaging to the sector, Beauty Kitchen has begun trialing in-store refillable stations for cosmetics products


Beauty Kitchen's Return · Refill · Repeat programme allows consumers to send back their reusable packaging (Credit: Beauty Kitchen)

In 2014, Jo-Ann Chidley decided to leave her job at marketing company McCurrach to set up Beauty Kitchen with the aim of bringing reusable packaging to the cosmetics industry.

The use of this model is in part due to the fact that more than 95% of beauty packaging in the UK is thrown away after just one use.

Using her expertise in sustainability and chemistry, Chidley and Beauty Kitchen aim to change this through its Return · Refill · Repeat programme.

Explaining what impact she wants the firm to have at Packaging Innovations’ 2020 Discovery Day, Chidley said: “What we want to do is demonstrate what is possible on a global level, on a scalable level and on a profitable level.

“So everything we do, we’re doing it for Beauty Kitchen but also as a demonstration to other businesses about what is actually possible.

“And that’s where, for me, it’s an exciting time for the packaging industry because when it comes to reusable packaging, that’s not really something that has had a major focus for quite a long time.”


What is Beauty Kitchen’s Return · Refill · Repeat programme?

In June 2019, the firm launched its Return · Refill · Repeat programme, which allows consumers to send Beauty Kitchen packaging back to it.

The company can then wash the containers, and then reuse them in the next batch of its latest cosmetics products.

It did this by switching its packaging to glass or aluminium – which makes it really easy to wash and reuse.

Describing the aims of this project, Chidley explained: “In this disconnected world, what we need is new thinking to reach better decisions and build for the future.”

There are two ways consumers can send their containers back to the firm, the first being through its in-store drop-off system, which can be taken to a Holland & Barrett store with a Return · Refill · Repeat logo located in the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands or Belgium.

Holland & Barrett then return the empty containers back to Beauty Kitchen to be washed and reused.

Consumers in the UK can also return their packaging through the post, doing this by downloading and printing a free shipping label and dropping it off at a Collect+ location.

In terms of packaging innovation, Chidley believes the beauty industry has had to use “fairly straightforward off-the-shelf packaging”.

She added: “And it would be great to see that dial nudged and pushed forward so we can give different consumers choices in the reusable packaging space that Beauty Kitchen has.

“So with the Return · Refill · Repeat model, what we’re trying to do in terms of the key insights here is that packaging is definitely an asset and it’s part of a tech cycle.”

In order to create a more effective cleaning programme, Beauty Kitchen uses a QR code on each piece of its packaging.

This means the company knows what has been in each of its containers, when it’s been returned, washed and whether it’s been refilled and sent back out to store or to a consumer – creating a completely transparent supply chain.

Chidley added: “Not only that, the Return · Refill · Repeat app enables consumers to look at that journey themselves, meaning they get engaged with that circular economy process and know exactly where their packaging has been.

“This I think will open up so many doors, not just for consumers, but for the brands as well.”


Beauty Kitchen looking to set up 1,000 in-store reusable packaging refill stations

Integrated as part of its Return · Refill · Repeat programme, Beauty Kitchen has begun to trial refill stations in the UK.

In early 2020, the company announced plans to launch 1,000 of these stations in a bid to save more than 100 million single-use bottles.

This ambition was pushed back, in part because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but these plans were swiftly put back on track.

In October, the first three of these stations were placed in supermarket chain Asda’s new sustainability store in Middleton, Leeds.

Launched in partnership with consumer goods multinational Unilever, these machines dispense beauty and personal care products including Radox shower gel, Simple liquid handwash and Alberto Balsam shampoo and conditioner, along with Persil laundry liquid.

beauty kitchen reusable packaging
In early 2020, Beauty Kitchen announced plans to launch 1,000 of these stations in a bid to save over 100 million single-use bottles (Credit: Beauty Kitchen)

Although the product range is limited at the moment, Chidley says its implementation is designed to “engage the consumer” in the refillables journey – also making it “easy to understand”.

Unlike Beauty Kitchen’s main Return · Refill · Repeat programme, due to the fact that it has a physical station, consumers are able to refill, wash and reuse containers in-store.

Once this service has been used, customers can also return their containers back to the station to be sent back to Beauty Kitchen or they can use the label that’s available on the company’s website, returning it via the post.