RETURNABLE TRANSIT PACKAGING (RTP) HAS BECOME A FAMILIAR FEATURE IN SUPERMARKETS UP AND DOWN THE COUNTRY
by Simon Moulson, head of retail development, Linpac Allibert
With over 18 million Maxinest trays sold in the past 30 months, RTP is typically recognised for its role in showcasing fresh produce, meat, fish, and bakery items.
However, design and innovation are now increasing its part in shelf-ready packaging and as a front-of-house merchandiser.
Improved security, manual handling, and storage features have also been behind a marked rise in RTP usage in wider retail applications such as clothing, home, and electronics.
Not least because it offers retailers significant environmental benefits by cutting packaging waste, minimising losses and damage, and optimising efficiency in the return supply chain. This helps organisations to fulfil their most recent CSR promises by enabling them to reduce carbon footprint.
In this article, I’ll look at how innovation is being driven by the evolving use of RTP in the retail environment; further, how partnership with retailers is helping to deliver solutions that aren’t only more efficient but also look good enough to take a lead role in selling product front of house.
Our award-winning Maxinest plastic tray is as popular as ever since its launch in 1995. Developed to meet supermarket demands to cut costs, reduce packaging waste, and deliver greater efficiency in the supply chain, it now comes in 20 different varieties and represents a core part of produce merchandising to all the major supermarket chains.
The Maxinest’s success means that, typically, you’ll see this tray merchandising between 80 and 90 per cent of grocery produce in store.
When first introduced, it was made in beige so that it didn’t look too different from board. This was because consumers associated plastic trays with quality, and thus had the perception that the produce would be more expensive.
Things have now changed, and black is becoming increasingly popular for showcasing the bright colours of fruit and vegetables; and the consumers’ perception of quality when picking produce from a tray is definitely seen as a plus.
Bread and bakery trays are still typically brown in colour, reflecting a more rustic, homely appeal. A recent study with one supermarket chain showed how it helped to achieve replenishment of stock 10 times more quickly than before, leading to an increase in sales of 17 per cent; not bad for a humble bread basket!
From an aesthetic viewpoint, the trays can be arranged in neat rows. This gives aisles a clean, crisp outlook, and offers better display utilisation, meaning that products can be seen and selected easily – which is valued by customers and a boon for sales.
CATERING FOR SEASONAL LINES
When it comes to creative merchandising, Maxipac bulk storage and Universal Pallets are ideal for showcasing seasonal items such as pumpkins and melons, and even gardening products like bulbs.
The fact that they can be supplied with pre-designed graphic shrouds, or can have individually-designed graphics (to show recipe ideas, for example), or just simply slogans, promotions, and key brand messages, makes them the ideal reusable solution for a wide variety of point-of-sale opportunities.
Never complacent about the success of these products, we continue to innovate to help retailers achieve sustainability goals, cut operating costs, and deliver environmental benefits – while still aiming for one-touch replenishment in store with containers that will look good for consumers next week, next month, and next year.
If you consider that, typically, a plastic container goes through the grocery supply chain cycle around 24 times a year for as many as seven or eight years, then much focus goes on ensuring that it can still work as hard as a merchandiser as it does in the supply chain.
We’ve already launched the next-generation Maxinest, designed and developed to meet the demands of automated warehouse environments, and are now working with retailers on the next stage of folding trays. These will deliver even greater savings in the supply chain while being able to hold and present goods still more effectively.
VERY EXCITING’ POTENTIAL
The potential for RTP as a merchandiser is very exciting, and new applications are being considered all the time. For instance, plastic beverage stacking trays for large bottles of fizzy drinks deliver packaging savings; and for distribution, they are stackable to a height of four pallets – but also safe and easy for consumers to access whilst presenting contents in a neat and stylish way.
It’s the simplicity and practicality of RTP that makes it so appealing, and we are increasingly working on solutions for the rapidly-growing segment of small-format supermarkets.
With CSR including environmental and health and safety considerations high on the retailer’s agenda, plastic RTP is a proven success story.
The role it plays in delivering a high-quality sales experience for customers to the benefit of the bottom line, however, shows increasing potential as supermarkets compete to secure value for shoppers.