Waitrose Unpacked test to launch in more shops after positive response in Oxford

Thursday 1 August 2019

  • Supermarket to test refillables concept in Cheltenham, Abingdon and Wallingford this year   
  • Unpacked test to be extended at Botley Road shop in Oxford 
  • Unpacked sales overtake their packaged equivalent

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. 

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 through its in-store feedback walls, customer interviews, its dedicated website page, Waitrose.com/Unpacked, and social media, using #WaitroseUnpacked.  

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 which have been selected so it can be included as part of already-planned refurbishments this year.  

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, as well as Ecover detergent and washing up liquid refillables. Waitrose & Partners aims to extend the refillable range of products available at the three shops following customer feedback, but has not finalised plans at this stage. 

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.

Head of CSR for Waitrose & Partners, Tor Harris, said:

“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.”


When it launched in June the ‘Unpacked’ concepts included:

  • Produce unpacked - 160 loose fruit and vegetable products - the most loose fruit and vegetable lines offered by any national supermarket
  • Frozen pick and mix - Frozen mango, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, pineapple and raspberries are packaging free
  • Plastic removed from flowers and plants - Plastic wrap has been removed from all flowers and indoor plants and replaced with 100% recyclable and 100% PEFC certified craft paper
  • Detergent and washing up liquid refillables - Waitrose & Partners became the first supermarket to partner with Ecover and provide an automatic detergent and washing up liquid dispenser where customers are able to refill their reusable Ecover containers
  • Wine and beer refillables - Four different wines and four different beers are available on tap to take home in reusable bottles to cut down on the use of glass bottles
  • Coffee refills - Customers can grind one of four coffees in store to take home in a reusable container to reduce glass and plastic packaging 
  • Essential refillables - 28 products including pasta, rice, grains, couscous, lentils, cereals, dried fruit and seeds have been taken out of packaging and is available through dispensers
  • Borrow-a-box scheme - Shoppers can borrow-a-box from store to shop with and then take home before returning on their next visit  
  • The Veg Kitchen - Staff prepare loose vegetables to discourage customers buying prepared veg in plastic packs  

Additional information:

  • Waitrose Taking On Plastics demonstrates how Waitrose & Partners is taking steps to eliminate unnecessary plastic and packaging, which includes:
  • All Waitrose &Partners own-brand packaging will either be widely-recycled, reusable or home compostable by 2023.
  • The supermarket will remove black plastic from all its own-brand products by the end of 2019. It has already removed hard-to-recycle black plastic on its fresh meat, fish, poultry, fruit and veg.
  • Waitrose & Partners recently launching the world’s first home compostable ready meal packaging removing nearly nine million products out of black plastic.
  • Single-use plastic bags for loose fruit and veg bags were replaced with a home compostable alternative in May 2019 and in March this year it removed all 5p single-use carrier bags.
  • By Christmas 2020, its own label cards, wraps, crackers, tags, flowers and plants will either be glitter-free or the retailer will use an environmentally friendly alternative.


Waitrose & Partners

James Armstrong

Corporate Communications Manager 
Tel: 01344824657
Mob: 07764676880
Email: james.armstrong@waitrose.co.uk

Waitrose & Partners

Ellie Gillingham

Corporate Communications Manager 
Tel: 01344 82 5080
Email: eleanor.gillingham@waitrose.co.uk.