As part of efforts to
reduce plastic in the supply chain, M&S is trialling its first plastic-free
loose fruit and vegetable department at its Tolworth store.
As well as ditching the
packaging, M&S has introduced trained greengrocers, who will be on hand to
offer customers valuable advice as they select from two aisles of fruit and
vegetables free of plastic packaging. The range not only includes hard fruit and
veg like potatoes and bananas, but also more perishable items such as soft
fruits and berries, which will be retailed in compostable punnets, and best
before date labels have been removed.
Louise Nicholls, Head of
Food Sustainability, said, “We’re proud to launch a series of market-leading
initiatives to help our customers take home less plastic. “Our trial at
Tolworth is an important milestone in our plastic reduction journey and
bringing back the traditional greengrocer will play a key part in educating our
customers. Our plan is to create long-term impact in the future using tangible
insights from the Tolworth store trial.”
M&S has committed to
launching additional lines of loose produce and more sustainable alternatives
to plastic in every UK store, which could save 580 tonnes of plastic waste over
two years alone. The plan will also involve replacing plastic produce bags with
paper ones and phasing out plastic barcode stickers in favour of eco-friendly
alternatives. M&S Senior Packaging Technologist Kevin Vyse spoke at the
recent UK Brassica & Leafy Salad Conference which will be reported in the
March issue of The
greengrocer Oliver Kay Produce has announced that it is working with local
company Re-Source to reduce food waste and is also working hard to reduce
plastic food packaging.
The company claims it is
the first wholesale greengrocer to swap from overwrapped polystyrene trays to
compostable ‘Bagass Trays’ made from sugarcane pulp and supplied by Thompson
Packaging. All plastic wrap now comes from 100 per cent recycled sources and is
looking for a suitable compostable-substitute.
“We looked at moving to biodegradable
packaging, but realised that to really make a difference, all of the packaging
needed to be compostable,” explained Paul Leyland, Oliver Kay’s Commercial
& Sustainability Director. Other sustainability improvements include
replacing the plastic netting traditionally used for items such as citrus to
one made from certified beech wood fibre.
Oliver Kay delivers to
approximately 3,500 catering establishments six days a week. “A business of
this type and size obviously generates an amount of waste in the form of
packaging and food waste,” added Paul. “We are buying roughly 800 nets of
lemons each day, 320 trays of chillies each day, and through our strict quality
standards and prep department we are producing approximately 2.5 tonnes of food
waste each day.”
Working with Re-Source the
business has introduced a screw press system to remove water from left over
fruit and vegetable waste, reducing the total density of the waste by 90 per
cent. This is then composted, and taken back for use by the farmers who supply
wholesalers say that they are benefitting as consumers shun plastics and
packaging following the television series Blue Planet II.
According to reports,
so-called millennials are looking for more sustainably produced produce and
want more information about what they are buying. “We’ve definitely seen an
increase in millennials coming to buy fruit and veg at the market,” said David
Matchett, development manager at Borough Market in London. “They want to
connect with their food and see where it comes from – greengrocers and markets
can help with that. Millennials are interested in different sustainable diets
so they come to ask our traders about it and can get informed. They really care
about climate change and come here because we use minimal packaging.
“Food of a higher value is
appreciated by this generation who are becoming more aware – you need personal
contact with people who know about the food at the greengrocers or the market.”
Greengrocer Grant Fox, of Seasons of England, said, “We have loads of young customers. I would say (millennials) care about seasonal produce and their carbon footprint. 90 per cent of our plants aren’t wrapped in plastic – they’re all loose.”
The House of Commons
debated whether supermarkets should have to offer fruit and vegetables which
are not wrapped in plastic, following an online petition which managed to gain
Under the rules of the
Government’s petition, any campaign which achieves more than 100,000 signatures
is eligible for debate by MPs. The debate was opened by Steve Double MP, a
member of the Petitions Committee.
Prior to the debate, the
Government had responded to the petition saying, ‘We are working with retailers
and the Waste and Resources Action Programme to explore the potential for the
introduction of plastic-free initiatives in supermarkets in which fresh food is
sold loose, adding, ‘Packaging has an important and positive role to play in
reducing product damage, increasing shelf-life, and reducing food waste.’
However, during the debate,
Sandy Martin MP argued that plastic packaging could be counterproductive:
“Plastic packaging on fresh fruit and vegetables may contribute to food waste:
by offering a fixed packaged quantity, people may be induced to buy more than
they need, as the hon. Member for Henley mentioned. Also, the amount of waste
may be disguised. Rather than damaged food being thrown away by the
supermarket, the customer may well find damaged fruit or vegetables inside the
plastic packaging and then throw them away in the household. Also, I question
whether most fresh fruit and vegetables are given an enhanced shelf life by
being wrapped in plastic.”
According to a new survey of smaller retailers by card payment services company Payment Sense, sales of goods packaged in plastic, and fruit and vegetables in particular, have declined over the last six months.
The move comes as consumers have become increasingly concerned by the environmental effects of plastic waste around the world, which have been highlighted by the BBC’s Blue Planet and forthcoming Drowning in Plastic programmes.
More than half of the 291 retailers surveyed (54 per cent) in July 2018 said that they had seen a fall in sales, with fruit juice and bottled water sales also suffering. Almost half (49 per cent) of the retailers surveyed also said more customers had requested products without packaging over the last six months.
Guy Moreve, chief marketing officer at Payment Sense, said, “Our study shows how changing consumer behaviour is starting to have an impact on the UK’s small retailers… Movements like the UK Plastics Pact are really gaining traction, as businesses and industry work towards a more circular approach to protect the environment.”
Photo Caption: Small retailers say that consumers are shunning fruit and veg wrapped in plastic.
Supermarket Waitrose is introducing punnets made from tomato vines for its range of Duchy Organic tomatoes.
The punnets are made from a mixture of dried tomato vines and recycled cardboard and are being rolled out nationally following a successful trial in 2017. The first product will be Waitrose Duchy cherry tomatoes on the vine in mid June, with the remaining four lines in the new brown packaging from the end of July.
According to Waitrose, the cutting-edge packaging is widely recyclable and replaces the original plastic punnets the tomatoes were in. As well as reducing plastic it also provides a use for the tomato vines which were previously treated as waste.
Nicola Waller, Head of Fresh Produce at Waitrose, commented, “We’re serious about looking for alternative packaging materials. This uses materials which would otherwise be wasted which can only be a good thing. ‘We will also ensure that all our own-label packaging is widely recyclable, reusable or home compostable by 2025 – and looking for alternative forms of packaging is part of this process.”
Waitrose recently introduced packaging for Red Lentil Pasta and Green Pea Pasta which is partly made from pulses.
Berry and stone fruit marketing organisation Berry Gardens has signed an arrangement with technology company Anacail to exclusively use their ozone technology for berries, cherries and plums in the UK.
Berry Gardens CEO, Jacqui Green, said, “This technology is game changing in our industry, using ozone, a proven sterilant, to reduce the presence of yeasts and moulds. This means extended shelf life, reduced waste and a better product for our consumer. We are thrilled to be working with Anacail and our businesses are closely aligned in our ambition to ensure the best berries, cherries and plums are available to our consumers across the breadth of the retail sector.”
Anacail, which is a venture capital backed SME spin-out from the Astrophysics Department at Glasgow University, specialises in creating and handling ozone in revolutionary, safe and flexible ways. Its key technology allows the generation of ozone (an activated form of oxygen), inside sealed packages, without damaging or opening the package.
Anacail’s CEO, Ian Muirhead commented, “We are delighted to sign this collaboration with Berry Gardens, a major player and leading innovator in their sector. It is a major milestone for Anacail in bringing our innovative technology to market.”
A new European-wide packaging standard for corrugated packaging aims to ensure standards for stackable, top quality, fit-for-purpose corrugated card.
The Common Footprint Quality (CFQ) says certified trays will deliver the protection needed by delicate fruit and vegetables, giving growers and retailers assurance that their fresh produce will arrive in store in optimum condition every time.
CFQ builds on the FEFCO Common Footprint (CF), which harmonises tabs and noses of corrugated trays throughout Europe. CF guarantees the stackability that allows growers and retailers to handle transport of fruit and vegetables efficiently; the Q promises quality and strength.
In the UK, packaging manufacturer DS Smith has said that all its packaging will meet the new standard. ‘DS Smith has been working in close collaboration with the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) on the introduction of the new Common Footprint Quality (CFQ) standard in the UK,’ the company said in a statement.
Mick Thornton, Sales and Marketing Director of DS Smith’s UK Packaging Division said: “We are proud to be a lead player in the integration of this new quality standard to the UK. Corrugated packaging is ideally suited to the fresh produce industry as it can offer the cushioning, ventilation, strength, moisture resistance and protection that growers, packers and retailers are looking for. Our customers can have the utmost confidence that their products will arrive safely at their destination and the standardisation of products will bring benefits and efficiencies to the entire supply chain.”
A new filter which absorbs and locks in ethylene in enclosed spaces, such as retail packaging, could revolutionise the shelf life of fresh produce according to the company behind it.
Figures from tech company It’s Fresh! claim their filter inserts are now saving 1,134 tonnes of strawberries each year; the equivalent of almost three million punnets, or forty times the number of strawberries eaten at Wimbledon every summer. The green and white stripy filters are now being used by supermarkets including M&S, Morrisons, and Waitrose.
Simon Lee, co-founder of It’s Fresh! said, “Wasting food really does waste everything – Water, labour, energy, time and money. Many of us know that over a third of the food produced globally gets wasted, but what you might not know is that it takes almost half a gallon of water to grow one strawberry, add to that the labour & fuel to pick, pack, ship and process it for retail merchandising ….and you can begin to see the scale of the problem that we face.”
As part of its ‘Save Our Spuds’ campaign, Sainsbury’s has introduced new packaging which will prevent potatoes from going green and developing a bitter taste. Designed to be 100% opaque – whilst still breathable – the new packaging prevents any light from reaching the produce, the most common culprit for greening.
The green discolouration develops thanks to a build-up of solanine which is triggered by too much light. The retailer estimates that this is responsible for the wasting of 5.8 million potatoes every day.
Jane Skelton, Head of Packaging for Sainsbury’s, commented, “Potatoes are a British favourite. But exposure to sunlight means many of our spuds never make it to the table. That’s why we’re calling ‘lights out’ in our latest effort to help tackle food waste. We’re confident that this will improve the shelf-life of our potatoes and, while the packaging might be opaque, we’re hoping the results will be clear to see.”
The new packaging will be rolled out across Sainsbury’s stores, across King Edwards and Lady Balfour potatoes – two varieties which are most susceptible to greening. The retailer continues to recommend that all potatoes should be kept in a cool, dark place.
Photo Caption: Lady Balfour and King Edwards will be the first to benefit from the new packaging