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Stuart Gannon

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Health or environment? Tough choices to make for consumers

The recent surge in cases of coronavirus in the UK has compelled a number of businesses to take steps in tackling the situation and preventing further spread. One of the latest examples is Starbucks' ban on the use of reusable cups in its stores.

Stuart Gannon

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Although there have been no such recommendations by health officials, the ban on the use of reusable cups is a proactive step by the brand. 

“Out of an abundance of caution, we are pausing the use of personal cups or tumblers in our stores across the UK.” Explains Starbucks Europe spokesperson Robert Lynch.

Starbucks launched the initiative, which gives customers with reusable cups a discount, in 1998, making it one of the first chains to do so. This has since become a widespread industry practice, but it is not clear if the coffee giant's new stance on reusables will be similarly followed.

With increased awareness of the environmental impact of plastic, prior to the pandemic, the majority of brands were considering ways to minimise their plastic usage, such as by encouraging consumers to carry their own cups to be reused.

However, with the transmission of the coronavirus now the most pressing concern, many brands are putting environmental initiatives on the back-burner.

Prior to the outbreak, such initiatives were highly valued by consumers, with over three-quarters of those in the UK (78%) saying they considered reusable or refillable features to be extremely or quite important in packaging, according to GlobalData’s 2019 Q3 Consumer survey.

It will be interesting to see how consumers react to this move by the coffee chain. Determining whether health or the environment takes priority is a critical decision that will determine whether Starbucks receives commendations or a backlash.

Others such as Greggs have no immediate plans to follow suit, so – at least for now – consumers have other options to consider.

For more insight and data, visit the GlobalData Packaging Intelligence Centre

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