Value Proposition Design: Zero Waste Supermarket

New business models at the basis of circularity
Value Proposition Design: Zero Waste Supermarket Value Proposition Design: Zero Waste Supermarket
Publ. date 8 Jul 2016
Founders Sara Wolf and Milena Glimbovski of Original Unverpackt (OU) say there is a rising demand for products and services that deal with sustainability and that people demand alternatives to the “abundant” handling of resources. When the two started in 2014, their zero waste supermarket was financed with €100.000,- crowdfunding money that enabled them to open their first store in Berlin. Celebrating their first year in business, they look back at serving 120 customers on a daily basis and managing to save significantly on packaging with the product groups milk, tomatoes and quinoa as frontrunners.

Original Unverpackt does not represent a new idea. Selling unpackaged groceries is a progressive concept born out of the bulk buying trends of the 1980s. Revival started with London-based Unpackaged in 2007, and in 2012 in Austin, Texas where In.Gredients was introduced.

“Pick your own” concept reduces portion sizes to what is needed

The store not only saves on packaging but by sourcing food locally, it saves on transportation costs and energy use too. Customers can bring their own containers or use the ones provided by OU, that can be reused. When customers bring their own containers, OU labels them with the weight upon entering the store, and then during check-out, the weight of the containers is subtracted from the total weight in order to pay for the net weight of the groceries. The label is designed to survive a few washings so customer can come back and skip the weighing process for a while. OU’s product portfolio not only consists of food, but also offers non-food products, such as cleaning products and personal care items.

Zero waste lifestyle adaptation

Original Unverpackt says it “would like to offer this new way of shopping to a broad range of customers” including those on small budgets, but admit that their shop is located next to a vegan burger restaurant and ‘alternative’ environments can’t help but is a tell-tale sign that it attracts specific target groups. The store attracts people interested in a zero waste lifestyle, embodied in the 'upwardly mobile hipster'. Next to selling groceries in a new way, OU regularly welcomes school classes that visit the store and educates youngsters on the principles of recycling and leading a sustainable lifestyle.

“Here, the customer only takes what he needs,” Wolf and Glimbovski told journalists on the eve of the launch of their 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.” Most popular are vegetables and fruits, muesli that can be mixed, but also specific products like tofu, chia seeds and bamboo toothbrushes. In their approach, OU has put the interventions that the World Resources Institute advocates to minimize food waste through portion reduction and consumer education, into practice.

Value proposition design based on sustainable innovation

Are you interested in driving sustainable innovation from developing new business models and making your portfolio future-proof? Please contact Jan van der Kaaij, Managing Partner, at or call +31 6 28 02 18 80.

Photo source: Original Unverpackt

About Josée van der Hoek

Experienced strategic issues management specialist with expertise in strategy development, food waste and DJSI. |

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