Quentin Clark – Head of Sustainability and Ethical Trading, Waitrose
Waitrose recently announced a partnership with two leading Welsh universities – Aberystwyth and Bangor – and other industry partners to carry out a large research project aimed at exploring the use of high-value chemical components of ryegrass for products including food packaging.
The project will see a biorefining process used to isolate and extract sugars and other components from ryegrass and convert them into low carbon products.
Moving to easily recycled, fibre-based packaging for foods – where positive environmental benefit can be shown – is something us in the industry are keen to explore. But one of the largest potential obstacles to achieving the commercialisation of biobased products is positive engagement with key stakeholders, including industry and consumers.
That’s why a key element of the research effort is engaging with the public from an early stage to ensure we are delivering solutions that meet our customers’ needs. Demonstrating the viability of products from ryegrass and gauging public appetite for the biobased economy is key to ensuring the successful end-use of these products.
By demonstrating processes for converting biomass and delivering these offerings to the public in an accessible form, it is hoped it will encourage the adoption of green-based products; providing alternatives to those currently produced from fossil sources.
In line with these efforts, Waitrose will facilitate a series of customer focus groups, online surveys and in-store displays and demonstrations to gauge public awareness and support for sustainable packaging products from biomass.
Of particular importance is a clear demonstration that this offers an environmentally better solution than the current types of packaging. Ease of recycling will also be key, along with ensuring the high functionality of the end products. From an aesthetic point of view, colour ranges should be discussed with customers to ascertain how acceptable opaque as opposed to transparent packaging is in different applications.
Successful engagement with customers is central to the success of any project and we are looking forward to trialling our own prototypes with stakeholders to target the ultimate goal of commercialising green products.