Posted: 10/07/2019

Waitrose ups eco ante with latest plastic-free concept

Waitrose Unpacked launched last month in the Oxford Botley Road branch and will be on trial until 18th August

Waitrose’s latest environmental store concept, featuring loose product refill stations, is a timely reminder to independents that they need to stay ahead of the green retailing game, according to analysts. 

Launched at the Botley Road branch in Oxford, the “Waitrose unpacked” format includes a dedicated refillable zone, frozen food ‘pick and mix’, loose fruit and vegetable lines, flowers and plants free of plastic wrap, and a borrow-a-box scheme.

The chain will test the concept for 11 weeks, until 18th August, during which time it will seek feedback before progressing.

Thomas Brereton, retail analyst for GlobalData, said refillable shopping could give Waitrose “a localist, friendly appeal” and an edge on nearby stores.

He added that ‘sustainability’ would be one of retail’s buzzwords for the next decade, with GlobalData’s research indicating that 90% of consumers believe it is retailers’ responsibility to act sustainably. 

Catherine Shuttleworth, chief executive of marketing agency Savvy, told FFD: “We are seeing a resurgence in shoppers buying food locally with independents who make a virtue of less packaging and it’s a positive trend that shoppers are seeking out.

“Many independent retailers have been offering a packaging-free option for years to shoppers who have always valued sustainability.”

She said it was much more difficult for the main supermarkets to deliver both operationally in store and through the supply chain.

Kate Forbes, co-owner of the Trading Post Farm Shop in Somerset, has recently opened a refill room selling 180 organic lines through various dispensers. She agreed that small independents could probably do better than supermarkets.

“There is always someone on hand here to go and help customers in the refill room and talk them through the products,” she told FFD. “I think that’s what people are looking for and it’s the personal service. It’s understanding how the system works and having a conversation with people about the cost saving.”

Karen Deans, managing director of Field Fare, said that the 40-year-old frozen self-service specialist continued to see strong demand for its products from consumers and retailers – especially during a recent BYO container campaign.

“We committedly only supply and support independent retailers, so I am pleased to see that Waitrose are leading a charge from the multiples side in trialling packaging free lines.” We are all in this together, after all.”

This story appeared in the July issue of Fine Food Digest. You can read more on the digital edition here.

Read more of the latest news from Fine Food Digest here

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