Are Waitrose Packaging Free Products A Sign Of The Future?

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LONDON, United Kingdom — British Grocer Waitrose is trialling the sale of loose products including cereals, pasta and coffee to empower shoppers to cut down on plastic packaging.

In addition to a dedicated refillable zone, the supermarket chain is also looking into the creation of a frozen ‘pick and mix’ section and borrow-a-box scheme, which it says would have the potential to save thousands of tonnes of unnecessary plastic and packaging.

In a statement, the company said the test has been designed to help determine how customers might be prepared to shop differently in the future. And it points to a landscape where brands could play more of an active role in enabling consumers to improve their environmental and social footprint.

In Futerra’s recent survey of over 1,000 consumers in the US and UK, it highlighted an overwhelming demand for brands to step up their focus on sustainability, with 88% of those asked saying they wanted businesses to do more to help them shop consciously. Waitrose is testing that theory.

“We are determined to build on the work we’ve already done to reduce packaging – and this test will take our efforts to a whole new level as we help the growing number of customers who want to shop in a more sustainable way,” commented Head of CSR for Waitrose & Partners, Tor Harris.

“This test has huge potential to shape how people might shop with us in the future so it will be fascinating to see which concepts our customers have an appetite for. We know we’re not perfect and have more to do, but we believe this is an innovative way to achieve something different,” she added.

Running for a period of 11 weeks until 18 August at Waitrose Oxford supermarket, the trial, branded ‘Waitrose Unpacked’, will enable the supermarket to collate as much feedback from customers as possible.

According to the brand, packaged equivalents of the products will remain in their usual areas, so it can test whether given the choice between buying packaged or unpackaged fruit and vegetables, which customers choose.

Having already removed hard-to-recycle black plastic on its fresh meat, fish, poultry, fruit and vegetables, Waitrose also recently launched the world’s first home compostable ready meal packaging.

The supermarket says it will also remove black plastic from all of its own-brand products by the end of 2019, as it continues to take action on plastics.

With Britain’s biggest supermarkets producing 810,000 tonnes of throwaway packaging each year, according to Greenpeace, Waitrose hopes that if successful, its latest initiative will ultimately save thousands of tonnes of plastic waste — a goal that is also being set by some of the world’s biggest brands in the US.

Earlier this year, Loop – a durable packaging initiative run by recycling company TerraCycle launched in New York, with brands including Procter & Gamble, Nestle and Unilever all taking part. The scheme enables consumers to order products made by the participating companies, which are then delivered to them in special reusable packaging.

“The climate, especially over the past two years, has changed,” Anthony Rossi, Loop’s Vice President of Global Business Development told Forbes. “Consumers are demanding it.”

And that demand will see the initiative launching in London via supermarket chain Tesco later this year, with Toronto, Tokyo and California to follow in 2020.

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