Iceland has abandoned a trial to sell loose fruit and veg in supermarkets after experiencing a 30 per cent drop in sales.
The supermarket picked a branch in north Liverpool to test packaging-free produce aisles in its latest bid to cut back on plastic.
But the company said customers still want efficiency and practicality, and many were not willing to front the additional cost brought about by the move.
Managing director Richard Walker said the company is committed to removing its packaging, but it has proven hard to change shoppers' habits around buying fresh produce and the company will need to find affordable changes for its customers.
Commitment to going plastic-free
"We're on a bold, ambitious journey here to remove all packaging by the end of 2023," he said.
"Some categories, such as frozen foods, are easier. Fresh produce is tough. It's not the biggest area but it's important and visual.
"We chose one of our everyday stores in a working class suburb of Liverpool. We want to democratise these issues and try to ensure everyone can have an impact.
"This can't be about virtue signalling - this isn't just about the middle classes, it's for everyone. And we need to work out how to make changes without adding to shoppers' spending."
He said that Waitrose, which under its "Unpacked" scheme sells loose fruit and veg in a number of stores, has customers who can afford to spend more on their food.
“Our customers do care, Waitrose shoppers have the luxury of being able to spend more money. We need to find cost-effective initiatives that work for everyone," he said.
Mr Walker said that he and his team are still working towards going plastic-free and that the trial provided positive insight into the next steps.
He said Iceland is not only looking at sustainability, but a long-term business model too: "I have 25,000 members of staff to think about. And five million customers.
"We're looking to find a cost neutral solution," he said.
"What people want is pre-packaged convenience. Lots of people pop in and spend small amounts of money. We need to keep prices low and the trial cost us more in the end.
"The trial didn't work here but it's all part of the process. The most important thing is to not stop at the first failure."
Iceland said it will continue to pursue new ways to support the environment, while continuing to remain a profitable business.