A 20-year era is coming to an end. Germany’s first „Unverpackt“ (engl. „unpackaged“) shop at Adelheidstraße 28 in Kiel will officially close at the end of the year. It was a contact point for numerous people who wanted to take action against food waste and packaging waste. The concept was simple: bring a container and write down the empty weight, fill it, pay at the checkout. Now it´s over. But how did it happen in the first place?

The founding year

It all started in 2012. Founder Marie Delaperrière was annoyed by the amounts of packaging waste after her shopping trip and was looking for solutions to reduce it. After researching, she came across a newspaper article about an American woman who filled food and household items from bulk packs into her own containers such as jars or cloth bags. At that time, there were plenty of stores with such offers – in France, Great Britain and the US. But not yet in Germany.

From this an idea was born. On 01/02/2014 she opened “Unverpackt- lose, nachhaltig, gut”; the first shop of its kind in Germany on about 60m2. Location: Waitzstraße.

The vision: If customers can shop according to their needs, the likelihood of them throwing away products decreases. Plastic-free packaging also protects the environment. Products are delivered in the largest possible quantity units and then filled in containers. This creates packaging waste, but way less.

(Photo: Gina Kretzmer)

Media attention & expansion

One thing quickly became clear: the demand for unpackaged products was huge. Numerous media such as Spiegel Online and Stern TV kept reporting on the shop. Over the years, the founder won several prizes with her concept, for example the Next Economy Award in the Social Entrepreneur category in 2016. In the same year, she received the Environmental Award of the City of Kiel.

The shop expanded. Two moves finally brought the shop to Adelheidstraße near Exerzierplatz. The shop area got larger and the assortment now included over 800 products instead of 250 at the beginning. 

Not only food products are in the assortment, but also household products and cosmetics. (Photo: Gina Kretzmer)

The unique cosy charm gradually attracted regular customers. “Unverpackt” in Kiel triggered a wave. More and more shops opened all over Germany.  Over the years, a real “Unverpackt” community formed, which eventually founded the association “Zero Waste Kiel e.V.”. The shop consequently also became a catalyst for the formation of new friendships.

COVID crisis and the Russia-Ukraine war

But after a steep growth phase until 2019, several crises hit at once: The COVID waves and Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Visitor numbers dropped sharply. In 2022, only a third of the previous visitors came to the shop. The founder explains this on her website as followed:

„(…) [Russia´s attack led to] the fear of the erosion of our prosperity. These [crises] have drastically hit shopping and consumption habits: social distancing, increased home office and finally the return to the supermarket or discounter – real winners that have meanwhile integrated the narrative of sustainability (rarely in an honest way) into their marketing concepts.“

Founder Marie Delaperrière

A tough lot after so many years of hard work. The founder sought help over a long period of time with letters to the city and state government- to no avail. Talks with brainstorming took place; however, without the elaboration of a long-term solution. The „Unverpackt“ shop could not be revived. People can still shop until 31/12/22, then it will be closed. 

Due to the closure, there is currently 20% off the entire range (Photo: Gina Kretzmer)

New tenant wanted 

The founder still believes in the concept of “Unverpackt” and encourages people to support the other “Unverpackt” shops in Germany. She remains active in environmental protection associations. In a letter on her website, she appeals to imaginative people who can submit fresh concepts for the “Unverpackt” shop space.

Do you have ideas? Please get in touch at kontakt@unverpackt-kiel.de.

What are your thoughts on the closure? Feel free to write them in the comments!