SOUTH AFRICA – Pick n Pay, South Africa second largest retailer, has launched a ‘nude’ fruit and vegetable produce wall – a dedicated plastic and packaging-free zone – in 13 stores across the country.

According to an IOL Business report, this is part of the retailer’s trial to measure customers’ readiness to switch from pre-packaged food to loose products.

The ‘nude wall’ will include 12 new seasonal loose PnP fruit and vegetables: brown steak mushrooms, portabellini mushrooms, red & green chillies, cocktail tomatoes, sweet Palermo peppers, baby brinjals, green beans, broccoli, zucchini, sweet corn and baby cabbage.

These join the other 35 loose fruit and vegetables that were already available to customers.

Retail Executive, Commercial at Pick n Pay, Paula Disberry, said plastic waste remained a concern for many customers, adding that the trial would give consumers the choice to shop for more fruit and vegetables free from plastic packaging.

“The company is really excited about this innovation and hopes to extend the loose range even further. Currently, the sale of loose products accounts for only 10% of all fruit and vegetables sold in PnP stores.

“There is scope to grow our ‘nude’ wall offering, but it needs to be sustainable and without unintended consequences. Reducing plastic waste has obvious benefits, but we need to be careful not to increase food waste levels during the process,” she added.

The retailer said that paper bags will be available to customers at the ‘nude’ produce wall to complete their plastic-free greengrocer-inspired shop.

“For a further sustainable option, customers can purchase PnP’s new reusable netted fruit & vegetable fresh produce bag or bring their own transparent and sealable reusable bag for loose selling produce,” Disberry added.

Pick n Pay has also removed stickers from some of the retailer’s existing loose range – sweet potatoes, gem squash and butternut – and replaced with laser printing.

Disberry noted that that thickness of their value-added vegetable bags has been maintained at 30 microns, “making it the lightest bag in the market.

“Our decision to not increase the bags to 40 microns means we have prevented the use of approximately 12 tonnes of plastic last year.”

“Previously our loose produce range wasn’t as popular as our pre-packed products. We believe this is shifting as consumers become increasingly more conscious about the environment.

“The impact of plastic is now front of mind for customers. We will closely monitor shopping behaviour and if this trial is successful, we can expand the initiative to more stores,” said Disberry.