Pick your perfect pear

Eye-tracking technology and behaviour change science assist the move towards loose produce

20 March 2024

  • Eye-tracking software monitors shopping habits as Food Waste Action Week trial spells out the benefits of buying loose.
  • If all apples, potatoes, and bananas were sold loose in the UK it could prevent 60,000t of food waste, cut plastic packaging by 8,800t and save more than 80,000t CO2e each year.

This Food Waste Action Week (18-24 March), Waitrose and WRAP are trialling point-of-sale messaging to encourage more customers to buy fresh produce loose to cut household food waste, save money and reduce single use plastics and unnecessary packaging. Taking place in its Thatcham store near Reading, the Waitrose trial is one of the first to focus on point-of-sale messaging to encourage customers to choose loose over pre-packaged across a range of fresh uncut fruit and veg. 

Waitrose signage

Catherine Loader, Sustainability Manager at Waitrose said, "Waitrose is committed to supporting customers in buying what they need, and during Food Waste Action Week we’re running trials to understand how signage and customer communications influences purchase of loose fruit and veg. This trial is part of a wider strategy and pledge to offer more loose fruit and veg in store, which also reduces plastic waste. We’re committed to helping our customers reduce household food waste, with over 100 lines now packaging free. We look forward to sharing the results of the trials and continuing to help our customers choose what they’ll use."

The Waitrose trial is the first in what WRAP hopes will be a series of retailer actions to use WRAP’s latest insights to encourage more shoppers to choose unpackaged fresh produce.

The climate action NGO, which developed a messaging toolkit, are working with Waitrose to assess how the messaging and placement affects purchases of loose fruit and veg - including the use of eye-tracking software to follow shoppers’ unconscious reactions. Shoppers will be recruited by a specialist research company to take part in this element of the study. This will include wearing hardware while they shop to track their eye movements and identify which signage has been viewed and for how long.

Estelle Herszenhorn, Head of Food Systems Transformation - WRAP, “We’re delighted to work with Waitrose on this important trial. We know from our consumer research that selling more loose, pricing being clear, making loose an attractive offer and engaging with customers on the benefits of buying loose are key ways retailers can take action and it's crucial that more follow Waitrose’s example. But we, as shoppers, need to embrace loose produce and be open to change. 

“Actions like this trial show us the possibilities of how retailers and shoppers can change together, to begin the massive shift needed in how fruit and veg is sold and our ingrained shopping habits.”

WRAP research found four distinct drivers and barriers that influence UK shoppers in purchasing loose fruit and veg: price, quantity, quality, and environment. The messages Waitrose are trialling have been developed to communicate the advantages to customers of loose, by promoting the quality of loose produce and the benefits of buying closer to the quantity you need - to help counter ingrained shopping habits of buying packaged. 

To address the barriers people have raised around loose, WRAP’s toolkit outlines the ways retailers can make the experience as simple and engaging as possible. From clear information on how to buy and weigh fresh produce loose, to overcoming apprehension around perceived quality differences; to information on how to store fresh produce at home to keep fresher for longer, in the absence of information on packaging.

weighing Waitrose

The latest insights on consumer attitudes and behaviours and how best to engage customers have also been published this week. It’s important action to take – WRAP estimates that if all apples, potatoes, and bananas were sold loose in the UK it could prevent 60,000t of food waste, cut plastic packaging by 8,800t, and save more than 80,000t CO2e each year. 

WRAP has also organised an industry event during Food Waste Action Week and inviting the sector to join members of Courtauld 2030 and the UK Plastics Pact voluntary agreements. The day-long online programme will work to accelerate progress on household food waste prevention, including by removing more plastic packaging from fresh produce lines, and a session where Waitrose will speak about these consumer messaging trials.

Waitrose will be running loose fruit and veg trials throughout Food Waste Action Week and until 10 April. 

Notes to Editor

  • WRAP is a climate action NGO working around the globe to tackle the causes of the climate crisis and give the planet a sustainable future. We believe that our natural resources should not be wasted and that everything we use should be re-used and recycled. We bring together and work with governments, businesses, and individuals to ensure that the world’s natural resources are used more sustainably. Our work includes: UK Plastics Pact, Courtauld Commitment 2030, Textiles 2030 and the campaigns Love Food Hate Waste and Recycle Now. We run Food Waste Action Week and Recycle Week.  
  • Please contact: Ian Palmer, PR & media manager WRAP 07802 873 431 – [email protected] www.wrap.org.uk
    • Photography available on request.
  • Waitrose & Partners has 329 shops in England, Scotland, Wales and the Channel Islands, including 59 convenience branches, 27 shops at Welcome Break locations, and Waitrose.com - its fast-growing online shopping business, consistently rated highly by independent research. The retailer combines the convenience of a supermarket with the expertise and service of a specialist shop - dedicated to offering quality food that has been responsibly sourced, combined with high standards of customer service. As part of an employee-owned business, all Partners have a say in how the business is run.
  • Waitrose aims to halve food waste in their operations and supply chains by 2030 and will help customers do so at home by the same date. For more information on Waitrose’s approach to food waste please visit Waitrose.com.