When I heard that there was a zero-waste grocery store just across our building, my curiosity was piqued and I knew I had to check it out.
Unpackt, a local social enterprise that’s committed to building a greener and more mindful Singapore, received the attention of the press when it first launched last year. They do so by eliminating packaging waste by selling products without packaging to consumers.
Intrigued by this packaging-free shopping experience, I decided to get in touch with Florence, Unpackt’s founder, at their main outlet for a quick chat.
Unpacking The Packaging-Free Experience
Fueled by their desire to create a greener and more mindful Singapore, Florence and Jeff co-founded Unpackt in 2018.
Being a zero-waste store, all the food items in Unpackt do not come in packets or boxes. Instead, items are stored in glass jars and containers and are sold by weight, encouraging customers to ‘buy according to what they can consume.”
The Unpackt brand offers customers a unique brand experience that is quite unlike any other — Florence further unpacks the experience for us.
“Customers first need to generate a shopping list and plan their containers, before visiting the store. We first weigh their empty containers, before they proceed with filling the containers with food items. At the cashier, we weigh the food items and then deduct the weight of empty containers – so customers pay only for the food they’ve purchased.”
Florence says that the Unpackt process encourages mindful consumption, because it requires a lot more planning compared to your typical grocery run. Ever visited a supermarket only to end up with an extra packet of chips you never intended to buy in the first place?
Unpackt’s unique shopping experience completely mitigates such situations.
“Customers have to think through whether an item is a need before purchasing it since they probably have no containers to accommodate extra items — and this encourages more mindful consumption.”
Because everything is sold sans packaging, brands do not play a part in the decision-making process.
“We don’t offer a huge variety; we only procure what our customers are looking for and only bring in food that will be purchased by customers.”
An Obliviously Strong Brand
The founders, both of whom are very passionate about their cause, may not have deliberately drafted out a brand strategy.
Yet, you’ll find Unpackt’s brand personality integrated into nearly every aspect of the business. From the products they procure in bulk, to the packaging-free shopping experience, right down to the people they work with. Unpackt as is a brand that is not only environmentally conscious but socially responsible as a whole.
“We focus more on our social mission: reducing food waste and packaging waste. The most important part of the business is community building and creating awareness.”
From trying to reduce packaging waste and encouraging Singaporeans to make more environmentally-friendly decisions, Unpackt stays true to its mission of trying to create a greener and mindful Singapore.
Being mindful, in this case, extends beyond caring for the physical environment. Unpackt cares deeply about people too.
“As a registered social enterprise, we hire beneficiaries such as single mums and the elderly. We provide fair employment opportunities alongside skill training.”
Unpackt currently works with two beneficiaries. Apart from taking on retail shifts, they are offering flexible work arrangements that allow them to work from home, such home-based tasks involve sewing and creating merchandise for Unpackt.
The Brand Promise
Customers can expect quality products at wallet-friendly prices. As Unpackt procures goods in bulk, this significantly drives down packaging costs and these are then passed down to consumers.
“We procure our selection of food with quality assurance. Customers can find quality food at more affordable prices,” says Florence.
Florence also adds that Unpackt focuses on quality, rather than quantity — and Unpackt brings in products responsibly, ensuring that nothing goes to waste.
Some of their best-selling items include their superfood powders and seeds, which are also sold by weight.
Florence shares that the superfood powders aren’t just popular among fitness buffs, but also working adults who “are coping with the fast pace of life”, as they provide a convenient way to get nutrition — they simply have to “pop two spoonfuls into their morning drinks and they get a good amount of nutrients in their bodies.”
Unpackt’s Brand Personality
The sincere brand personality of Unpackt is one that focuses on being environmentally conscious and responsible. As a brand, Unpackt is a huge advocate for environmental sustainability.
“We believe that everyone can make sustainable switches in their lives; these can start from the home; from the toiletries you use, to kitchenware, to bringing out grocery bags when you go shopping to reduce the use of single-use plastics.”
We were curious to find out what Florence and Jeff would be getting busy with, in the coming months.
Having achieved some stability in operations over the past year, the founders now want to focus on their beneficiaries. Florence and Jeff are currently working towards producing Unpackt’s own line of products, which awards more opportunities to their beneficiaries while strengthening the Unpackt brand at the same time.
“We’re focusing more on our beneficiaries and we’re coming up with our own line of products like laundry powder and deodorant which the beneficiaries will help produce.”
The dynamic duo are also going to allocate more time and resources into consumer education for both corporates and schools alike, by conducting workshops where participants can learn more about current pollution problems and discover new ways to live more sustainable lives.