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WRAP targets 50% slash in UK fresh fruit and veg packaging by 2030

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) aims to increase the amount of uncut fresh fruit and vegetables sold loose to 30% by the end of 2025 and aims to target 50% by the end of 2030. In 2021, the figure was 15%.

The non-profit organization has published its “Pathway To Selling More Uncut Fresh Fruit And Vegetables Loose” report to reduce household food waste and single-use plastic packaging.

WRAP asserts retailers should look to adopt key principles as they move toward selling more loose fresh produce. While the longer-term aim is to sell loose and only loose, investigations and process changes should continue and learnings and progress should be reviewed and accelerated wherever possible.

Key principles

The program says fresh produce should be sold in packaging if there are legislative or regulatory requirements to do so e.g., for phytosanitary control on imports or to prevent cross-contamination of allergens.

Mainline or top-selling-stock keeping units should be a focus and prioritized for the transition to loose wherever possible to normalize loose for the consumer while simultaneously maximizing reductions in food waste and plastic packaging for high-turnover lines.

The report continues by suggesting businesses should refer to the Best Practice Guidance for Uncut Fresh Produce to aid in the decision on which variety/varieties to sell loose.

Additionally, WRAP highlights consumers should not be financially worse off by buying loose products. For example, loose versions should be available at a reasonable and comparable price to any packed alternatives. Price comparisons must also be highlighted, prominent and simple to understand.

Finally, retailers should use the best practice messaging developed by the WRAP Consumer Engagement Collaborative Action Group incorporated in their brand voice. Independent retailers or stores wishing to move to loose should follow the Best Practice Guidance for Uncut Fresh Produce.

Implementation challenges

The pathway targets are ambitious and will require the industry to take action on existing processes, procedures and behaviors. The industry has identified a range of challenges throughout the development of the pathway.

Overcoming these will require cross-sector collaboration on the development of solutions, action planning, trials and knowledge sharing. These include, but are not limited to, the introduction of weighing capabilities, the impact of seasonal shoulders when some products may be more prone to damage and delivering cost efficiency when packed can be more cost effective.

Selling loose online – how to handle, deliver and provide product information; maintaining whole crop utilization as much as possible; supply chain optimization and imported produce and products packed at source, are further challenges to be considered.

Additionally, protection during supply chain and transport, and consumer behavior change to buy loose over packed and associated barriers around convenience and cost are to be thought through when developing the pathway. Through the voluntary agreements, WRAP says it is seeking industry commitment to continue collaborative action on overcoming these challenges and investing in solutions.

Food waste

Food waste feeds climate change. Globally, up to 40% of food produced ends up as waste, representing 8-10% of all greenhouse gas emissions. In the UK, 70% of post-farmgate food waste in the UK comes from the home, with fresh fruit and vegetables accounting for the largest proportion.

The £2.1 billion (US$2.6 billion) worth of fresh fruit and vegetables thrown away in homes are frequently discarded before they are even prepared or cooked. Meanwhile, most fruit and vegetables are packed using single-use plastics.

Last year, WRAP claimed to have proven that plastic packaging doesn’t necessarily prolong the life of uncut fresh produce and can actually increase food waste. The organization called for an end to unnecessary plastic packaging and Best Before labels on a wide range of fresh uncut fruit and vegetables in the UK.

While plastic packaging is a resource-efficient material, the NGO now warns that the propensity to escape into the environment is evident on a global level, with plastic pollution impacting the health of waterways and marine environments across the planet.

Plastics circularization

However, Innova Market Insights has identified “Plastics circularization” to be the top packaging trend in 2023. Although plastic reduction initiatives are gathering pace and renewable alternatives are on the rise, plastic’s inherent qualities as a lightweight, versatile and hygienic material means that production and consumption continue to increase.

The market researcher found that 61% of global consumers believe the increased use of plastic packaging is necessary – although perhaps undesirable – since the COVID-19 pandemic for safety reasons.

Despite the plastic pollution crisis and poor recycling rates, 72% of global consumers still believe plastic has average or above recyclability relative to other materials. Moreover, half (52%) say they would pay more for a product if it came in recyclable packaging.

Next steps

Furthermore, the production of virgin plastics is highly energy intensive and heavily reliant on the extraction of finite fossil fuel feedstocks, exacerbating climate change and further pushing us toward breaching the safe planetary boundaries.

“Therefore, we need to remove plastic where it is unnecessary and is making unwanted contributions to climate change. And it is not enough to simply switch from one material to another since all materials have an environmental impact,” says WRAP.

WRAP asserts it will continue to work with retailers and their suppliers to support the roll-out of its pathway. Citizen engagement is critical and needs to happen in parallel to retailers’ increased offering of loose fresh produce.

The resource efficiency organization is supporting the development of consistent messaging that all retailers and stakeholders can use. WRAP will be working with stakeholders on trialing the specifics of this messaging to better engage the consumer, and results will be shared across the industry.

By Natalie Schwertheim

This feature is provided by FoodIngredientsFirst’s sister website, PackagingInsights.


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