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Waitrose refills success

Waitrose Unpacked refillables test to launch in more shops after ‘overwhelmingly positive response’ in Oxford
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Waitrose refills success

Waitrose & Partners is to extend its ‘Unpacked’ test in Oxford beyond the original end date of 18 August and has committed to introducing elements of the concept into three more shops by the end of the year, after an overwhelmingly positive response.

The retailer transformed its Botley Road shop in June taking more than 200 products out of their packaging to test how customers might be prepared to shop differently, with the aim of saving thousands of tonnes of unnecessary plastic.

Feedback from 7k customers

The test, now into its ninth week, set out to get as much feedback as possible and more than 7,000 customers have provided comments.

While the original 11-week test has not finished, the findings so far give the supermarket confidence that the concept can be a success elsewhere.

Waitrose & Partners will introduce the Unpacked test into three more shops; they have been selected so the trial can be included as part of already-planned refurbishments this year.

‘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.’

Head of CSR for Waitrose & Partners

Unpacked will now form part of the new-look stores to be unveiled in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire in September and Abingdon and Wallingford, both in Oxfordshire, in November. The shops will again be branded strongly with ‘Waitrose Unpacked’ to maximise awareness.

All three shops will have a dedicated refillable zone. This will include dispensers for dried products, frozen ‘pick and mix’, coffee, wine and beer refills and detergent and washing up liquid refillables.

Plastic-free vs cruelty-free products

Waitrose & Partners aims to extend the refillable range of products available at the three shops following customer feedback, but has not yet finalised plans.

In early June, My Green Pod wrote to Waitrose to share a concern that the trials of detergent and washing up refills were exclusively for Ecover products.

We explained that many of our eco-conscious readers have boycotted Ecover (and Method) because the parent company, SC Johnson, openly admits to testing on animals, which is something they refuse to fund. More on this can be found in this article.

We asked Waitrose whether any other options had been explored, and shared the concern that customers would face a choice between ditching plastic and financially supporting a company that conducts animal tests. We received the following response.

‘You will need to speak to SC Johnson about their products. We can confirm that Ecover does not use any animal testing. This is stated in their Supplier Code of Conduct and by their Leaping Bunny certification, which is independently audited each year.’


Understanding customers

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

The Oxford test is already helping the supermarket to understand what works for its customers. The Veg Kitchen was not as popular as some of the other concepts, and shoppers preferred to bring their own containers rather than borrow a box. Both concepts will therefore be removed from Botley Road by the end of August and will not feature in the three additional shops.

‘It’s great that Waitrose customers are embracing refillable containers to buy things like rice, coffee and detergent from dispensers, and that sales of these ‘unpacked’ product lines have overtaken their packaged equivalent.

‘Other supermarkets now have no reason not to follow suit. We urge them to introduce dispensers for food and other products in their stores and ditch unnecessary plastic packaging without delay.’

Ocean plastics campaigner for Greenpeace UK

Click here to read our article about which supermarkets are worst for plastics.

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