Waitrose extends package free “pick and mix” trial

Waitrose will extend its “unpacked” packaging trial to three new stores, after the success of the refillables concept in Oxford.

The retailer launched the trial at its Botley Road shop in Oxford in June this year, taking more than 200 products out of their packaging to “test how customers might be prepared to shop differently” with the aim of reducing plastic usage.

The trial, which was due to finish on August 18, has since been extended in Oxford and will also be rolled out to three new stores in Cheltenham, Abingdon and Wallingford over the course of the remainder of the year.

More than 7,000 customers responded to the trial in Oxford, according to Waitrose, and that the findings give it confidence that the concept can be a success elsewhere.

Where other supermarkets are stuck in the recycling rut, Waitrose has been doing some genuinely game-changing work with its focus on packaging re-use and reduction

Head of corporate social responsibility at Waitrose Tor Harris said: “The reaction to Waitrose Unpacked has been incredible with the invaluable feedback from thousands of customers giving us the confidence that they are prepared to change how they shop with us.

“We are keen to take the Unpacked concept forward and these additional tests will help us achieve this as well as understand its commercial viability. Through working with our customers and suppliers we will continue to learn and develop ideas which have the potential to be rolled out more widely.”

The three new shops will have dedicated refillable zones – with dispensers for dried products, frozen “pick and mix”, coffee, wine and beers as well as laundry detergents and washing-up liquids.

There will also be a range of loosely packed fruit and vegetables.

Some aspects of the original trial, including the “Veg kitchen”, will not be continued in Oxford or rolled out to any of the new stores due to unpopularity with customers.

The ‘Unpacked’ concepts

  • Produce unpacked – 160 loose fruit and vegetable products will be available at the store – the most loose fruit and vegetable lines offered by any national supermarket.
  • Frozen pick and mix – Frozen mango, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, pineapple and raspberries are packaging free and will be available as pick and mix.
  • Plastic removed from flowers and plants – Plastic wrap has been removed from all flowers and indoor plants and replaced with 100% recyclable and 100% PEFC certified craft paper.
  • Detergent and washing up liquid refillables – Waitrose & Partners 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.
  • Wine and beer refillables – Four different wines and four different beers available on tap to take home in reusable bottles to cut down on the use of glass bottles.
  • Coffee refills – Customers can grind one of four coffees in store to take home in a reusable container to reduce glass and plastic packaging.
  • Essential refillables – 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
  • Borrow-a-box scheme– In a UK first, shoppers can borrow-a-box from store to shop with and then take home before returning on their next visit.

Welcoming news, Friends of the Earth plastic campaigner Julian Kirby said: “Customer enthusiasm for less packaging is fabulous news – supermarkets across the UK must take note and do far more to cut down on pointless plastic and packaging in their stores.

“Where other supermarkets are stuck in the recycling rut, Waitrose has been doing some genuinely game-changing work with its focus on packaging re-use and reduction.

“New legislation is needed to ensure that every business plays it part in cutting waste and phasing out the unnecessary single-use plastic packaging and products that blight our environment.”

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