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Rise of the refillables: Waitrose ‘Unpacked’ sales on the increase

The Waitrose ‘Unpacked’ concept – which involves the retailer selling unpackaged items which can be procured by customers in refillable containers – is seemingly going from strength to strength.

Sales of refillables at the grocer’s four shops where the Waitrose Unpacked initiative is on offer have grown by nearly 9% in the past six months, it said in a statement today.

Takings from Waitrose Unpacked frozen fruit and vegetables have increased by more than 50% during the period, while refillable detergent and washing-up liquid sales have jumped by 24% and pulses, pasta and grains have risen by almost 8%.

The supermarket chain said that since Waitrose Unpacked launched in the summer of 2019 it has helped save hundreds of tonnes of unnecessary plastic and packaging. The scheme also indicates there is growing consumer demand for more sustainable shopping options.

In response to this customer demand for refillables at participating Waitrose shops in Oxford, Wallingford, Abingdon and Cheltenham, the retailer has announced it will add loose tea and several other ranges to its Unpacked offering from this month.

There will be five different varieties of loose tea for customers to choose from, including Assam, Darjeeling, Earl Grey and English Breakfast tea as well as Waitrose Gold tea. Dried apricots, dried fruit mix, raisins, sultanas and currants have also been added, as has popcorn, frozen peas and frozen sweetcorn.

In January, Waitrose experimented by integrating unpacked items into its regular aisles within its shop in Wallingford, rather than having a single unpacked area. The test is set to help the business understand if consumers would be more likely to shop for Unpacked ranges if they were merchandised in this way, and the early signs are they are.

So far in the first ten weeks of the test, sales of refillables at the shop are up by more than 20%.

Marija Rompani, director of ethics & sustainability at Waitrose parent the John Lewis Partnership, said: “We are really beginning to find some momentum with customers demonstrating that this is how they might be prepared to shop with us in the future and we are especially encouraged by the response to moving the concept in-aisle to make it more of the norm when visiting us.

“We know there is much more work to do, but the reaction of customers right now is giving us the confidence to continue moving forward with Unpacked.”

[Image credit: John Lewis Partnership]

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