Waitrose has reported what is described by industry observers as a plastic-free veg boom across its most popular lines. The ‘eco-friendly’ Christmas trend has seen loose sprouts outperform the packaged variety. Waitrose say it is the first time in 20 years that it has seen loose potatoes, broccoli, parsnips, sprouts, carrots, and red cabbage outsell its packaged alternatives.

Furthermore, Waitrose has increased orders of loose vegetables by 75 per cent this year for the Christmas period compared to last year, following sales growth, as sales of packaged equivalents decrease.

Over the last ten months sales of loose broccoli are up 8 per cent and sales of loose parsnips have risen by 6 per cent, when a year ago they were in decline. Loose carrots and loose red potatoes sales are up by 21 per cent and 23 per cent respectively in the last two months alone, and sales of loose sprouts are outperforming their packaged version by 5 per cent.

Waitrose & Partners, fresh produce buyer, Paul Bidwell, said: “For the last 20 years the convenience of packaged produce has seen it outsell loose, but as consumers have become increasingly environmentally conscious and wanting to buy only what they need, we could be returning to how people used to shop with loose produce making a big comeback.

“We know we have a lot of work still to do to encourage customers to buy more loose fruit and vegetables, but there are signs we are seeing a shift in customer behaviour and we want to build on that momentum.”

Separately, the retailer has confirmed that sales of refillables at its four Waitrose Unpacked shops where it is currently testing taking a number of products out of their packaging, including pasta, lentils, cereals, frozen fruit, coffee, wine and beer, are outselling their packaged equivalent by 68 per cent.

At its Botley Road shop where the concept originally launched in June, refillable essential Waitrose fusilli pasta and long grain rice are outselling their packaged versions by 37 per cent and 78 per cent respectively. Refillable porridge oats are also up 78 per cent, red lentils are up by 62 per cent and dried soft figs by almost 50 per cent.