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More water bottles go label-free as retailers ramp up green marketing efforts

An employee at Homeplus in Gangseo-gu, western Seoul, loads label-free water bottles into a cart. (Homeplus)
An employee at Homeplus in Gangseo-gu, western Seoul, loads label-free water bottles into a cart. (Homeplus)
More retailers are joining the trend to go label-free on their water bottles amid growing environmental awareness and green marketing efforts in the industry.

South Korean supermarket chain Homeplus said on Wednesday that it has so far sold some 1.34 million label-free bottles of water, which were released as part of its premium private brand Homeplus Signature late last month.

Described as an “ethical consumption” product, the supermarket estimated the label-less water bottles reduced plastic use by 710 kilograms within 26 days.

“People do not have to bother with getting rid of the label and we can reduce the use of PVC while making PET bottle recycling more effective. It is virtuous cycle-based green consumption,” the company said.

Instead of a label, its product name and the production date are inscribed into the plastic packaging.

The eco-friendly water bottles now account for over 14 percent of the supermarket’s total bottled water sales.

Convenience store 7-Eleven also unveiled a renewed design for its label-free bottled water on Tuesday.

In an effort to raise environmental awareness, the company also included images of seven endangered species on the lid.

Earlier this month, Lotte Chilsung Beverage also released its sparking water Trevi in label-free bottles. The company was the first in the country to roll out label-free water bottles in January 2020.

The series of moves in the retail industry, joined by other convenience stores including CU, GS25 and Emart24 in recent months, have also seen a jump in sales.

Between late February and late March, convenience store CU saw sales of its private brand water bottles increase 78.2 percent compared to the same time one year ago after doing away with the plastic labels.

Overall sales of bottled water increased 20.4 percent during the same period – indicating a growing demand for environment-friendly products, the company said.

“Some of the positive responses include that it is eco-friendly and that the transparent bottles make the water inside look visually cleaner,” said one official at BGF Retail, an operator of CU.

As the label-free shift catches on, Jeju Provincial Development Co., the producer of the country’s most popular bottled water brand Jeju Samdasoo, is set to unveil its label-free design dubbed “Green Edition” at the 2021 P4G Seoul Summit which takes place later this month.

As part of its wider ESG efforts, Homeplus said it plans to double the number of bottled products which use an “easy-peel label” – a design intended to make it easier to get rid of labels. The supermarket also said it will switch colored PET bottles used for its carbonated beverages and oil products to transparent ones to adopt a more recycling-friendly design.

By Yim Hyun-su (