Lidl Introduces Vac-Pack Mince Despite Complaints of ‘Mush’ at Sainsbury’s

5 June 2023

Lidl addresses plastic concerns and offers recycling solution

Lidl has joined Sainsbury’s in adopting vacuum packaging for mince, aiming to reduce plastic waste and extend the product’s shelf life.

Following Sainsbury’s headline-making move, some shoppers voiced complaints about the texture of the meat after the switch, stating that it turned into “mush.”

An anti-plastic group raised concerns over the use of soft film packaging, emphasizing that it would not be suitable for most household recycling collections.

Lidl responded by stating that its vac packs could be taken to recycling collection points. The supermarket explained that the new packaging would utilize 63% less plastic and double the mince’s shelf life from eight to 16 days. The inclusion of an “easy peel film” would also eliminate the need for customers to directly touch the raw meat.

Sian Sutherland, co-founder of campaign group A Plastic Planet, criticized the use of soft plastics soiled by meat, arguing that they were unlikely to be recycled into anything useful. She expressed her belief that most people would dispose of them in general waste rather than making the effort to take them to recycling points.

Ms. Sutherland further stated, “When so many other natural materials exist, it is inexcusable to keep pushing plastic, and retailers need to seriously consider the reputational risks.”

According to environmental campaign group Wrap, plastic bags and wrapping can be recycled at over 6,000 locations across the UK. They provide a recycling locator tool to help individuals find their nearest collection points.

As retailers increasingly focus on environmental sustainability, many are exploring ways to make their products more eco-friendly. For instance, fruit drink brand Robinsons recently announced a trial in Tesco, offering cartons made of 89% plant-based materials. The company claims that its 500ml super strength squash, with 85% less plastic per serving compared to its one-litre double concentrate bottle, can yield 60 drinks. Additionally, John Lewis has committed to sourcing all leather used in its own label sofas and chairs from British farms exclusively supplying Waitrose beef.

In February, Sainsbury’s made headlines by becoming the first UK retailer to vacuum pack all beef mince, resulting in a saving of 450 tonnes of plastic annually. However, when the vacuum-packed mince appeared in the supermarket’s fridges, some shoppers expressed their dissatisfaction on social media. Complaints ranged from the mince resembling “a rectangle of mushed off cuts” to comparisons with “someone’s kidney.” Furthermore, customers reported difficulties in cooking with the compressed meat due to the air being sucked out of the packaging.

Richard Crampton, Sainsbury’s head of fresh food, addressed the concerns in an interview with the BBC in April. He clarified that the mince was exactly the same but more compressed, requiring customers to adjust their cooking methods slightly. Crampton noted that vacuum-packed meat was commonplace in the EU, the US, and UK recipe boxes, and he anticipated that other supermarkets might follow suit.

Shyam Unarket, Lidl GB’s head of responsible sourcing and ethical trade, highlighted that the switch to vac-pack mince was part of Lidl’s commitment to reducing its own-label plastic packaging by 40% by 2025. By ensuring recyclability in their new packaging, Lidl aims to contribute to the prevention of plastic pollution in the environment. The change to vac-packed mince is projected to eliminate over 250 tonnes of plastic from packaging annually.

Lidl’s introduction of vacuum packaging addresses plastic concerns while offering recycling solutions, demonstrating the supermarket’s dedication to sustainable practices in the retail industry.

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