Dutch organics retailer Ekoplaza enjoyed a highly successful PR coup earlier this year, earning extensive global coverage after launching a plastic-free aisle (also described as pop-up store) in its Ekoplaza Lab store in Amsterdam. The aisle included around 700 SKUs and was in place for a month or two, generating a huge level of interest on the back of widespread concern over the food retail industry’s reliance on plastic throughout much of its value chain.

These days, every one of Ekoplaza’s 70+ stores has a larger (around 1,400 SKUs) range of plastic-free items, but they are dispersed across the store instead of being collected together into a single location. I popped into a store in Central Amsterdam a couple of weeks ago and was pretty impressed – the environmental approach of the store complementing what is a very strong retail proposition and some more than decent shop keeping.

The plastic-free offer has seen some plastics replaced with compostable / biodegradable materials like grass, cellulose, wood pulp, algae, corn starch and shrimp shells or more traditional materials glass, metal or card. The items use the Plastic Free brand mark, created by campaign group A Plastic Planet (the same mark is used by UK retailer Iceland for its own growing range of plastic-free products) and are therefore very easy to spot on the shelves.

Ekoplaza is a 100% organic retailer, with its range encompassing chilled, frozen, ambient, wines and health & beauty. The store I visited was merchandised beautifully. Produce was a great intro, with a very creditable range of fruits and vegetables housed in some very stylish wooden fixtures, special offers called out with red and white signage.

My assumption would be that pricing is on the punchy side. Indeed, a few price comparisons with other supermarkets would suggest a premium of around 20%, but Ekoplaza counters that observation with the claim that “we offer good products for a fair price. You can be assured that all our products are 100% organic controlled and we offer our farmers, growers and producers a good price for this.”

The ambient range was extensive with highlights including olive oil dispensers atop a retro van, baked goods merchandised on an old delivery bicycle and an impressive array of eponymous PL lines. As befits a Dutch supermarket, the cheese counter was phenomenal and this was sited alongside a superb BWS section with a great variety of craft ales and wines from around the world. Alongside wines sat the range of looses seeds, grains, pulses, cereals etc. that enable shoppers to stock up using their own reusable packaging – a pleasing continuation of the environmental theme.

The health & beauty section was actually rather nice, an extensive selection housed in a part of the store with differentiated general look and feel and lighting – a really good effort from a food retailer.

Overall, this proposition stands up very well indeed against a backdrop of a sector that is home to some much bigger world class competitors. Ekoplaza has successfully carved out a strong niche for itself and has done a great job too of driving the agenda on supermarkets and packaging. Good work all round.

Bryan Roberts, Global Insights Director

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