Just as western Europe appears set to perform a dramatic U-turn on plastic packaging – with political parties and retailers rushing out a plethora of pledges as if by magic in an effort to quell the public’s growing outrage – Russia is rapidly heading in the opposite direction.
As European consumers finally wake up to the reality that the plastic packaging preserving their produce will outlast us all – in landfill sites and in the oceans – Russian shoppers are coming to regard plastic packaging as a guarantee of quality and food safety.
“A lot of our customers are asking us to pack the produce now,” says Ivan Gulyaev, deputy head of the purchasing department at Russian importer Tropic International. “In December 2016, around 20 per cent of the citrus we handled was packaged. Last December, we did 40 per cent, and the retailers still want more. We have bought two more machines for packing citrus, so we now have four. We are also looking at flow packs.”
In the recent past, according to Gulyaev, Russian retailers were virtually plastic-free zones. “But now there is demand from consumers,” he says. “People see that the quality is better and perceive the product as safer. When you go to the supermarket in Europe, all you see is packaged produce. We will see this in Russia too.”
The world’s first plastic-free aisle was introduced this week in Amsterdam at Dutch retailer Ekoplaza, while public pressure is growing on UK supermarkets to follow suit.