There is another category of Refill-at-home products where the goal is not only to reduce packaging waste, but also to drastically minimize the weight of packaging being transported and to preserve the customer’s original investment in the brand’s packaging, which in the case of luxury products can be quite significant.
O.U.i., “Original Unique Individuel,” is one of seven brands owned by Grupo Boticário, a Brazilian beauty group that distributes its products in 16 countries. The French perfume brand was developed, says the company, with sustainability and health at the forefront. O.U.i. products are 100% vegan and cruelty-free, meaning they do not contain ingredients of animal origin and have not been tested on animals at any stage of development. O.U.i. is also the first of Grupo Boticário’s brands to use refillable/reusable packaging, which was part of the brand’s strategy from the outset.
“The decision to include refills for the brand’s eaux de parfum is to show that it is possible [for consumers] to contribute to the environment while enjoying the everyday pleasures of life and taking care of themselves daily,” says Sabrina Serrato, innovation and product manager at O.U.i. “With refilling, in addition to encouraging the reuse of the original packaging, we were able to significantly reduce the weight of the material transported in our operations, reducing the greenhouse gasses involved in these routes.
“In addition to the impact on the environment, refilling brings benefits to our consumers, who can have access to the same quality as in the original packaging at a better cost.”
O.U.i. is available in 10 fragrances: five for women and four for men, and one sharable scent. The eaux de parfums [EDPs] come in elegantly crafted glass bottles fitted with metal closures, in a 75-mL refillable size and in the Les Petits version, which is a 30-mL bottle. Upon the launch of the brand, it introduced four refill selections; currently there are seven.
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In evaluating packaging systems for the refill, Serrato shares that O.U.i.’s requirements fell in line with the philosophy of the brand. “One of the main values of O.U.i. is Savoir-Faire, or the ‘know-how’ with excellence and quality, so prized in French culture,” she explains. “And for our refill line, it couldn’t be different. We wanted to bring to the brand a package that was practical, aesthetically consistent with the high standard of the rest of the line, and that kept the product in its best condition, to ensure the best experience for our consumers.”
The resulting 75-mL refill bottle, supplied by Trivium Packaging, is made from aluminum with 10% post-consumer recycled content. Explains Serrato, “Different packages were prospected, but through a survey of consumers, we understood that the aluminum package would be the most appropriate, as it protects the product and maintains the brand’s aesthetics.”
The shape of the bottle also complements the reusable glass bottle from a refill standpoint, shares William Ferreira-Altea, business manager, Aerosol & Beverage for Trivium Packaging-Brazil. “The aluminum refill sits nicely on top of the decorative glass vessel to fill easily and cleanly,” he says. “The shape of the bottle is simple and lightweight.”
The refill container is fitted with a Techniplast RT-Twist spout lid system with applicator nozzle for product transfer to the glass bottle. According to Serrato, O.U.i. is the first perfume brand in Latin America to use the Techniplast license, which is exclusive to Aptar.
To allow for refilling, the glass EDP bottle was designed with a threaded screw-on closure. To prepare the refill bottle, the consumer first removes the cap and threads an applicator nozzle, which comes separately with the refill, onto the aluminum bottle. The consumer then unscrews the valve from the EDP bottle, puts the refill bottle on top of the reusable bottle, with the nozzle inside the glass bottle, and turns the applicator around the thread on the bottle neck to secure it. The perfume then transfers out of the aluminum bottle and into the perfume bottle. A valve inside the applicator stops the flow of liquid when the bottle is completely filled.
“The goal was to bring this refill option, but without losing the premium side of the brand and in a way that was easy for the consumer to do at home,” says Serrato. “The aluminum packaging and coupled dosing spout made this all possible. In this way, the consumer can fill their glass bottle, without wasting product.”
Among the advantages of the O.U.i. packaging system, it allows consumers to reuse their original perfume bottle, and its refill component is made from a highly recyclable material. According to Altea, because of well-established recycling channels, metal packaging has one of the highest recycling rates, with a global average of 60% to 70%. In Brazil, that rate is over 97%.
In addition, the O.U.i. packaging system positively influences the entire logistics chain, Serrato says. “This makes it possible to reduce the weight of the package by 91%, reducing the greenhouse gasses involved in transport,” she says.
And, costing 44% less than the brand’s 75-mL glass bottle, the refill is an excellent value for consumers, as well.
Also in Brazil and also involving Trivium as the supplier is another premium brand that has opted for a refillable/reusable system, this one for artisanal gin. According to Trivium, BEG Distilaria, located in the “charming and bucolic district of Joaquim Egídio in Campinas-SP,” was the first spirits company to develop an aluminum refill bottle in Brazil.
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Founded in 2015, BEG produces all of its products by hand whereby once the botanicals have been distilled, the resulting spirit is diluted with water, rather than neutral alcohol in order to reach the ABV required for bottling. “That means that every single drop of our gin is redistilled and comes in contact with all the natural, fresh, and exclusive Brazilian botanicals in the recipe,” says Arthur Flosi, BEG Boutique Distillery’s founding partner and master distiller.
When BEG switched from a standard glass bottle for its gin to a unique mold and branded bottle, the company realized that in an effort to appear more premium, it had added more weight and consequently a bigger carbon footprint to its product. “For the on-trade market [bars and restaurants], that factor [custom packaging] counts little, unless for bottle service, and even more glass was ending up in the trash,” says Flosi. “Day after day, we received various feedback on social media regarding how beautiful our bottle is and how pitiful it was to throw that beauty away. That’s how the idea of launching a sustainable alternative was born.”
While BEG considered a range of alternatives for the refill bottle, including aseptic cartons, lighter glass bottles, and even aluminum cans, Flosi says that none were up to the quality of the distillery’s gin or felt as premium as the brand’s unique glass bottle. Instead, it chose a 500-mL stock aluminum bottle, which Trivium Packaging-Brazil Coordinator of R&D Marcelo Nery says is produced using an advanced alloy, allowing for a lightweight, 48-g container with a low carbon footprint when compared with the original glass bottle. According to BEG, the refill bottle is nine times lighter than glass, “meaning less fossil fuel per volume transported.”
“The aluminum bottle from Trivium is perfect,” says Flosi. “It looks great, it feels great, it’s more versatile—aluminum goes where glass can’t—it costs less for our customers, and it’s way more sustainable. In Brazil, 98.4% of all the aluminum packaging is recycled—we have an incredible circular economy around aluminum here.”
One of the considerations in developing the refill bottle was the selection of a coating for the inside of the container. Nery shares that Trivium is using a special food-grade liner that resists the high content of alcohol to protect the properties of the product and extend its shelf life. Notes Flosi, “We are already at 12 months of real shelf-life testing without any change in flavor and/or chemical structure.”
The stock bottle is custom printed using two processes: dry offset printing and heat transfer to allow for different graphics for small orders.
The refill system was launched at retail in Brazil in Q4-21. BEG offers five different aluminum bottles that correspond to each of the glass bottles it sells in Grupo Pão de Açucar, the biggest retailer in Brazil with a nationwide presence. The cost of the refill is 33% less than that of the glass bottle. “We wanted an easy math for our customer,” explains Flosi. “Each aluminum bottle has 500 milliliters versus 750 milliliters from glass. The price of the aluminum is 50% cheaper, so the customer would be able to buy one liter of BEG Gin for the same price as 750 milliliters in glass.”