WAITROSE on Botley Road says it has seen a surge in customers since it launched a pioneering plastic-free pilot project.

Branch manager Greg Ryan said he had seen more customers coming in specifically to buy fruit, vegetables and other products without plastic packaging.

However he also said it is still unclear whether the company will want to extend the scheme around the UK, or even in Oxford.

Pictures: Inside Waitrose's first 'unpacked' store in Oxford

The 11-week Unpacked pilot, which launched at the beginning of June, has seen the store 'unpack' 208 products, including 160 fruit and vegetables, from plastic wrap.

Mr Ryan said: "From our customers’ feedback, so far this is very positive.

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Max de la Mare shows off some of the 'unpacked' fruit and vegetables. Picture: Ric Mellis

"We know that they really appreciate what we’re doing to reduce packaging and there’s been sense of engagement from people coming to the shop.

"We see more customers coming because they really want to shop this way – it is really encouraging."

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However Mr Ryan was not able to say whether the experiment would be continued beyond 11 weeks or whether Waitrose had found it economically viable to extend to other branches.

He said: “At the moment we are not testing profit – our main goal is testing customer behaviour: if you offer a plastic-free option, how are customers reacting?"

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Marguerite Marshall pours lentils into a paper bag. Picture: Ric Mellis

Under the scheme customers can buy or rent reusable containers, and if they use those or their own containers, they are given a 10 per cent discount at fishmonger, butcher and vegetable counters.

Mr Ryan said the test would only be properly evaluated once it had finished, but he expressed hope it would be continued.

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"We gather as much feedback from our customers as we can," he added.

"We ask for ideas and suggestions. All of that will be captured by the data insight team, and they will share their results with us."

The test is set to finish at the end of August.

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