Waitrose extends scheme to remove packaging from products to more stores

Waitrose is extending its trial to take products out of their packaging following a positive response in the first store.

The “Unpacked” scheme was tested in Oxford, with a dedicated refill zone with dispensers for products from pasta to wine, as well as the UK’s first supermarket “pick and mix” for frozen fruit, including mango and strawberries.

More than 200 products, from cut flowers, fruit and vegetables to wine, beer, lentils, couscous and seeds, were taken out of their packaging at the Botley Road shop in June as part of efforts to cut waste.

Feedback from shoppers has been overwhelmingly positive and ‘Unpacked’ sales have overtaken those of equivalent products in packaging, Waitrose & Partners said.

The unpacked concept includes a refill station for products such as pasta (Waitrose/PA)
The ‘Unpacked’ concept includes a refill station for products such as pasta (Waitrose/PA)

Now the retailer has announced it is extending the trial in the store beyond the original end date of August 18, and the refillable concept will be rolled out for testing in three more stores in Cheltenham, Abingdon and Wallingford.

All three shops will have a dedicated refill zone, with dispensers for dried products such as pasta, the frozen pick and mix, coffee, wine and beer refills, and Ecover detergent and washing-up liquid refillables.

There will also be a wide range of unpacked fruit and veg, although it will change to reflect the season and where the produce comes from.

Two elements of the trial – the veg kitchen which saw staff preparing vegetables for customers and the “borrow-a-box” option for people instead of bringing their own containers – were not as successful.

They will be removed from Botley Road by the end of August and not feature in the new stores, which are getting the unpacked makeover as part of already-planned refurbishments this year.

Tor Harris, from Waitrose & Partners, 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.”

Waitrose said it was saving on plastic and packaging as products arrive in the store; for example, through buying in bulk on the refills, receiving the unpacked fruit and veg on reusable trays, and beer coming in kegs rather than individual glass bottles.

A sustainability consultant is carrying out an analysis of the overall impact of the test to give the retailer an accurate picture of carbon, food waste and packaging reduction throughout the supply chain before potentially rolling the scheme out more widely.

Sian Sutherland, co-founder of campaign group A Plastic Planet, said: “We are so encouraged to hear that Waitrose have had such a positive reaction from their customers on the ‘Unpacked’ trial.

“It is no longer acceptable to blame the public for plastic pollution.

“Brands and retailers simply need to offer their customers a better choice, a new way of shopping that is guilt-free.”

She added that businesses which do not step up to the challenge of selling something different “will be the next dinosaurs”.

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