Iceland Richard Walker paper bags

Iceland boss Richard Walker

Iceland is launching a trial that it claims could lead to a 93 per cent reduction in plastic packaging across a range of fresh produce.

The trial launches this week in 33 stores across London and the south east, and offer customers the opportunity to buy 38 fresh fruit and vegetable lines in new packaging solutions that are either plastic-free or have a significantly reduced plastic content.

The supermarket expects the trial alone to remove seven tonnes of plastic, and is part of its commitment to remove plastic from all own-label products by the end of 2023. Prices of the products remain unchanged.

The trial includes apples, mixed peppers, potatoes and carrots, andsees 29 plastic-free or reduced plastic solutions used for the first time in the UK. The solutions have been developed and tested in partnership with Iceland’s produce and packaging suppliers following several months of development.

The first phase of the trial sees 27 products launched in redeveloped packaging, with a further 11 being added in the second phase from 4March.

Phase two includes the rollout of new fixtures for bananas - a third iteration of the first trial for plastic-free bananas which initially proved to be unsuccessful. The trial of paper band packaging for bananas had been stopped in early 2019 when the banded product was shown to increase food waste in stores. Following that, new fixtures were then successfully trialled, the retailer explained.

Iceland managing director Richard Walker said: “We understand that consumers are particularly aware of the amount of plastic being used to package produce across the industry and we’ve been working hard to develop user-friendly, sustainable alternatives.

'This trial is the largest ever of its kind and we’re excited to see how customers respond to the range of solutions provided. The trial is truly scalable and our findings will help to further define our strategy for eliminating plastic across our produce offering.

“Most importantly, customers will not have to pay a premium for the plastic-free or reduced plastic products as prices will remain exactly the same, and we’re proud to be democratising choice in this way.

Of the previously failed banana trial, Walker added: “When we made our industry-leading commitment to remove plastic from our own-label products, we knew we would encounter obstacles along the way, including unsuccessful launches. We continue to be transparent with our customers about our successes and learnings, and bring them along on the journey as we use their feedback to improve and innovate.”