// Waitrose becomes the first grocer to integrate unpacked items into regular aisles, rather than having a single unpacked fixture
// The trial of the scheme will take place at its shop in Wallingford, Oxfordshire
// It follows news that Waitrose topped a report for efforts to reduce plastics across its shops for the 2nd year in a row
Waitrose has revealed the latest plans for its refillables scheme by becoming the first national supermarket to integrate unpacked items into its regular aisles.
The news comes after the grocery chain topped the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Greenpeace table of UK supermarkets for efforts to reduce plastics across its shops and products for the second year in a row.
The report said Waitrose had a plastic reduction of 6.1 per cent since 2017 across both its own-brand and branded ranges – the lowest plastic use per unit market share of the UK’s major supermarkets.
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The EIA and Greenpeace report also highlighted Waitrose’s refillable scheme, Waitrose Unpacked, which launched as a pilot in some of its shops in 2019 to test demand from consumers for packaging-free shopping.
Waitrose confirmed today that it would take the scheme one step further by becoming the first national supermarket to integrate unpacked items into its regular aisles within its shop in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, rather than having a single unpacked fixture.
Following the addition of 13 Unpacked options in December, the store will offer 51 lines, including frozen fruit, store cupboard essentials such as rice, pasta and grains, cereals, dried fruit, snacking and coffee, as well as washing detergent.
Waitrose said the trial aims to understand whether customers could be persuaded to incorporate shopping for unpacked items into their routine “business as usual” shopping trips, rather than visiting a separate part of the shop.
The grocer also confirmed plans to add more refillable products to the range later this year and its ambition to explore the potential to scale-up Unpacked in the future.
When Unpacked launched in Waitrose Botley Road shop in Oxford in summer 2019 it was originally intended to be an 11 week test.
However, since its success it has continued beyond that time frame and was added to a further three shops, including Wallingford, Abingdon and Cheltenham.
Waitrose said customers were “overwhelmingly supportive” of its packing-free, refillable initiative and that nearly all single-use packaging was eliminated across Unpacked products.
The retailer said that in the initial 11 weeks at Botley Road, it found that 98 per cent of single-use packaging was eliminated across Unpacked products and that all plastic packaging was reduced by 83 per cent.
Waitrose also found that 80 per cent of customers said they would shop Unpacked again and that as the test went on, an increasing number customers were remembering to bring their own containers.
Feedback suggested customers wanted to see a broader range of Unpacked products, including more brands, and that Unpacked also helped them do their bit for the environment and feel better about their purchases.
“We are pleased that Greenpeace’s league table has recognised our efforts to decrease our plastic packaging and pioneer unpacked shopping, but we know there’s more to do,” Waitrose executive director James Bailey said.
“We know this remains as important to our customers as it does to us so we have continued to explore ways we can do more.
“Waitrose Unpacked requires a fundamental change in shopping behaviour that has been ingrained for years.
“This next phase will help us to understand if we can make refillables a routine part of customers’ shopping trips that would allow us to roll out Unpacked further in the future.”