Iceland: sustainability update

Date : 03 December 2019

Frozen food specialist Iceland is looking to find ways to balance its sustainability ambitions against its strong reputation for low prices. We look at how it will no longer be trialling loose fruit and vegetables, alongside how it is encouraging suppliers to reduce plastic usage.

Loose fresh fruit and vegetable trial puts too much pressure on costs and sales

The retailer has decided to end its loose fruit and vegetable trial after it saw sales fall by 30% across the category, according to The Grocer.

Iceland introduced 35 packaging free lines to one of its stores, earlier in the year. The trial was removed in May, three months after it was launched. Iceland concluded that due to the substantial investment it would have to make in installing weighing facilities, introducing loose fruit and vegetables across the estate would not be sustainable.

The retailer remains firstly committed to keeping prices low and the business profitable. Therefore it will focus on reducing plastic in other areas. Iceland has always looked to lead the way in terms of being an environmentally conscious retailer and this will remain the same.

Increased attention on the impact of single use plastic has raised public awareness of the issue. According to our ShopperVista research, 54% of shoppers say last year they made changes to what they buy as as a result of programmes like the "Blue Planet" documentary.

Overall plastic reduction remains key

Iceland recently called on its suppliers to commit to further plastic reduction. The joint managing directors Richard Walker and Nigel Broadhurst have written a letter to more than 400 suppliers urging them to get behind its new 10 point manifesto, according to The Grocer.

Iceland wants suppliers to focus on using materials that can be easily recycled at home, the removal of unnecessary packaging and clearer recycling labelling. It is asking retailers to go back to basics and use materials such as paper, board, glass, metal and wood.

Iceland's private label suppliers have already pledged to eliminate plastic by 2023, this letter from the companies managing directors, is to urge branded suppliers to join them in this commitment. So far it has had supportive responses from Young's Seasfood and Birds Eye.

A plastic-free Christmas

Source: Iceland website

The retailer has launched a plastic-free Christmas range. There are around 30 products, including starters, mains and desserts all of which are in sustainable packaging made from card and foil. In 2018 Iceland also used Christmas to reinforce its sustainability agenda through its commitment to stop using palm oil.

Iceland has recently seen success in other environmentally friendly initiatives. Since making its pledge to remove plastic from its private label it has reportedly removed over 2,100 tonnes from these products. It also announced positive results from its reverse vending machines trial, having recycled over 1 million plastic bottles since May 2018.

After a successful trial of being plastic-bag free in its Hackney store the retailer will be rolling out paper bags across its estate in 2020.

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