Zero Grocery Delivers Goods in Reusable Containers

The company doesn’t use plastic and picks up the empty glass jars on return trips.

January 04, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO—The old-fashioned milk delivery system, where customers put out empty jars on delivery day, has returned with a new twist, Fast Company reports. In San Francisco, Zero Grocery will bring cereal, potato chips and spinach in glass jars that customers leave on their doorstep when empty.

“I wanted to make it easier for as many everyday, hardworking Americans as possible to adopt a plastic-free lifestyle,” said Zero Grocery founder Zuleyka Strasner. Almost all of the more than 1,000 items offered come in reusable packaging, except for meats and fish, which are wrapped in compostable packaging. Customers shell out $25 per month for a membership, which allows for unlimited free deliveries. The fee also eliminates any deposits for the reusable containers.

Zero Grocery purchases food in bulk packaging from manufacturers, then repacks it into the glass containers. Strasner said the company is now working with manufacturers using plastic-free bulk packaging, too. “The first thing that we realized was the existing supply chain doesn’t work,” she said. “We can’t just have something that starts its life in a glass jar at the beginning of the supply chain and just moves through the traditional supply chain. So we’ve had to both build the supply chain and build the supporting infrastructure and technology to enable all of this to happen.”

Strasner developed a tracking system to keep on top of products and containers. Each returned container is cleaned and sterilized before reuse. “There really isn’t anything that we cannot provide,” she said. “Plastic is a new phenomenon, and certainly from before the 1960s, it was commonplace for nearly all items to not come in plastic. So we’re just kind of returning back to some traditional packing procedures and packing our products combined with the technologies that we have underpinning them.”

Other companies are dabbling in zero-waste or plastic-free stores. For example, Loop has joined with Tesco and other chains to offer reusable packaging.

The June 2020 issue of NACS Magazine explored how retailers weigh sustainability goals against consumer safety consumers in “Sustainable—and Safe.”