A store in the U.K. has started selling unpacked food as a pilot to test customers’ reactions. Customers are loving it.
A Waitrose store in Oxford is running an 11-week trial — ‘Waitrose Unpacked’ — till August 18. The store has asked customers to bring their own containers and bottles to fill with meat, fish, coffee, frozen fruit, pasta, cereals, wine, beer, cleaning products, etc. Customers can also borrow a container from the store and return it on their next visit.
The pilot has seen the store “unpack” 208 products, including 160 fruit and vegetables, from plastic wrap. Plastic wrap has been removed from all flowers and indoor plants and replaced with 100% recyclable and 100% PEFC-certified craft paper.
Waitrose is the first supermarket to partner with Ecover and provide an automatic detergent and washing up liquid dispenser where customers will be able to refill their reusable Ecover containers.
Four different wines and four different beers are available on tap to take home in reusable bottles to cut down on the use of glass bottles.
Customers can grind one of four coffees in store to take home in a reusable container to reduce glass and plastic packaging. 28 products including pasta, rice, grains, couscous, lentils, cereals, dried fruit and seeds have been taken out of packaging and will be available through dispensers.
The store says customers are loving the trial. “We know that they really appreciate what we’re doing to reduce packaging and there’s been sense of engagement from people coming to the shop,” said branch manager Greg Ryan. “We see more customers coming because they really want to shop this way – it is really encouraging.”
Ryan did not say if the trial was economically viable and if Waitrose would extend it to other branches. “At the moment we are not testing profit – our main goal is testing customer behaviour: if you offer a plastic-free option, how are customers reacting?”
“I thought ‘about time’, quite frankly,” local resident Rosemary Spivey told BBC.
“I’ve always tried to recycle things for ages, and I’ve always got annoyed that everything is wrapped up in plastic,” she said. “One of the reasons I bought a cucumber today was because it actually wasn’t wrapped up in plastic.
“Stores have got to take it on the chin and do this sort of thing. It’s not just the stores, it’s the manufacturers, too. We didn’t used to have all these packages. It’s going to be a huge task for industry but they have got to do it because otherwise we’re going to be in trouble.”
Waitrose says it would remove black plastic from all its own-brand products by the end of 2019. It has already removed hard-to-recycle black plastic on its fresh meat, fish, poultry, fruit and veg. It recently launched the world’s first home compostable ready meal packaging removing nearly nine million products out of black plastic. Single-use plastic bags for loose fruit and veg bags were replaced with a home compostable alternative in May 2019 and in March this year it removed all 5p single-use carrier bags.