Excessive global reliance on plastics and single-use plastics, in particular, is firmly in the public eye at present, and Iceland has come forward as one of the first major retailers to make a truly significant and conspicuous change to their offering. Announced last month, they will trial a plastic-free aisle of grocery items in an attempt to showcase the possibilities for retailers in a plastic-free world. Read on to find out more.
The first thing to note is that this is a trial. It’s only being rolled out in one store at present; their Liverpool branch of The Food Warehouse. The company does insist that they’ll gauge public feedback, but for now, your local branch of Iceland or The Food Warehouse is unlikely to have such an aisle. This is all about making a public statement about the significant impact plastics have on our environment, and hopefully driving change.
Iceland managing director Richard Walker said: "Over 12 million tonnes of plastic enters the world’s oceans every year and the retail industry can no longer ignore the plastics tidal wave which is coming our way.
"We all have a part to play in tackling the issue and Iceland is constantly looking for ways to reduce its own plastic footprint, as we work towards our commitment. We are looking forward to seeing how our customers respond to the trial and taking forward learnings to inform the rest of our journey."
35 lines in the aisle will be sold completely loose, which means no packaging at all. Traditionally consumers have been less likely to select these kinds of product, but Iceland has cut prices on these lines to help encourage customers to make the switch. One of the most significant arguments against single-use plastics is that they’re often completely unnecessary - many fresh fruits and vegetables can simply be washed before eating - they don’t need to be wrapped up provided they’re prepared correctly. It remains to be seen how popular these loose products will be, but anything to raise awareness of the possibilities is certainly a benefit.
A further 27 lines will be sold in plastic-free packaging. Some of the innovations are particularly impressive, and food manufacturers, packagers and retailers will certainly take note of how well they perform. These innovative products include plant-based elastic bands for items like spring onions, and cotton nets rather than plastic nets for fruit such as oranges. There’s also a focus on compostable and recyclable packaging, which is made from pulp.
It’s worth noting that this isn’t Iceland’s first campaign to reduce its reliance on plastics. While it may be the most publicly obvious, the company has actually reduced plastic use across many hundreds of products in the last couple of years, as it aims to reduce its impact on the environment. This is something that many major retailers have begun to do, but is also something that many will feel has not been given the attention it deserves.
At Virtual College, we’re proud to be experts in delivering courses for food manufacturers and retailers, and these exciting developments in plastic-free packaging are something that we’ll continue to cover as more and more brands look to boost their environmentally friendly credentials.