Waitrose ditches packaging for environmental trial

Waitrose is trialling a new dispensing system that will allow shoppers to use their own containers for some products, and a borrow-a-box scheme, as part of its programme to reduce its reliance on packaging.

The Waitrose Unpacked promotion will be heavily promoted to drive up customer awareness during the trial, which is taking place at the Botley Road store in Oxford. The test will run for 11 weeks, with the retailer seeking as much feedback as possible.

Dry products, such as pasta, can be dispensed into containers while the store claims to have the largest number of loose fruit and vegetable lines of any national supermarket. Plastic wrap has been removed from flowers and indoor plants, and refillable options have been provided for products including beer, wine, cereals, coffees, and cleaning products.

“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,” says Waitrose & Partners head of CSR 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.”

GlobalData retail analyst Thomas Brereton says the move could prove popular. “Sustainability will certainly be one of retail’s buzzwords for the next decade, with the ‘Blue Planet effect’ rapidly changing consumers’ opinions on issues of sustainability,” he says.

GlobalData’s research show that 94% of consumers believe it is the responsibility of retailers to act sustainably, and 80% believe retailers are currently not doing enough to address such issues.

“Strong sustainability credentials are also a more important issue for Waitrose than for other retailers, with the most sustainability conscious demographics (generally older, female and more affluent shoppers) significantly overlapping with Waitrose’s core customer base, where over half of shoppers are 55+ years old,” he adds.

“But long-term success of the trial will depend on Waitrose’s ability to integrate these novel concepts in store. Waitrose must ensure that other points of differentiation… are not compromised as a result – although sustainability is of growing concern to shoppers, it lags behind criteria of customer service and quality in importance when choosing a supermarket.”

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