Plain pack appeal grows as Company Shop hits 2 million milestone

By Noli Dinkovski contact

- Last updated on GMT

Company Shop products are sold in plain packaging with a simple black and white label
Company Shop products are sold in plain packaging with a simple black and white label

Related tags: Supply chain, Food waste

Consumers are increasingly willing to choose plain grocery items if they are being sold for ethical reasons, the boss of the UK’s largest redistributor of surplus stock has claimed.

UK shoppers are happy to opt for “unpretty”​ products because they know the items would have otherwise gone to waste, according to Company Shop managing director Jane Marren.

The business, which operates five Community Shop stores across the UK, today revealed that more than 2.1m units of its plain packaged products will have been purchased by the end of September.

The fact that branded goods were also available leant further weight to the argument that consumers chose plain items for the right reasons, Marren claimed.

“We are delighted at these sales figures, which show that consumers are more than willing to purchase ‘unpretty’ products that would otherwise have gone to waste,” ​she said.

‘They understand why it’s there’

“Our members love it because they understand why it’s there, they get a great price and they are helping to prevent good products from going to waste.”

Research published by the University of Edinburgh last week found that more than four million tonnes of good food was wasted in the UK each year due to cosmetic standards, in part because of customer expectations of how it should look.

Numerous retailers have branched out into ‘wonky’ fruit and vegetables in recent months, as part of a broader drive to tackle the estimated six million tonnes of total avoidable food waste each year.

Company Shop accepts surplus products from across the supply chain that may otherwise have gone to waste. It can take surplus chilled, ambient and frozen stock that has yet to be packaged or requires repackaging because of issues such as ingredient labelling errors.

Black and white Company Shop label

The products can be sold in plain packaging with a simple black and white Company Shop label showing nutritional, ingredient and allergen information, together with the best before and/or use by date. Members are then able to buy these products at a discounted price.

Company Shop operates five members-only Community Shops – in Corby, Grimsby, Wentworth, Middleton and St Helens – with a sixth opening near Sunderland next month. It handles more than 50 million items every year.

Redistribution across the industry has soared by 50% in the last two years to 43,034t in 2017, according to recent Waste & Resources Action Programme figures. However, it is estimated that there is potential to increase this to 200,000t annually, almost five times the current figure.

Marren said: “We can work with suppliers, manufacturers and brands to ensure that food fit for human consumption reaches people’s plates.

“By redistributing surplus, we provide commercial and social returns for our partners, great products at great prices for our members, and a real environmental solution that helps to tackle the UK’s food waste challenge.”

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