Sainsbury's boss confronted by activist over plastic packaging

Lizzie Roberts
Mike Coupe, CEO of Sainsbury's, engaged in a 30 minute discussion with a customer about their use of plastic packaging  - PA

The CEO of Sainsbury's was confronted by an angry customer over its excessive plastic packaging - but the activist was unaware he was the boss for over 20 minutes.

Mike Coupe, who has led the chain since 2014, was on a visit to a superstore in Bodmin, Cornwall, when Michael Mayell, 52, mistook him for the store’s manager. 

Mr Mayell spotted Mr Coupe being shown around the store wearing a pride lanyard.

“I said to him, ‘I really love that message that you’re giving out by wearing that, but what about this message?’” Mr Mayell told The Telegraph. 

He ushered the CEO to the fruit and vegetable aisle, where he asked him to explain why they were selling one lose pepper for 50p, but six plastic wrapped ones for £1.20.

The two men then engaged in a passionate debate, discussing everything from food waste to Extinction Rebellion, Mr Mayell said. 

Mike Coupe told activist Michael Mayell he was 'passionate' about the environment.  Credit: Toby Melville /Reuters

“He defended himself really well, he explained why it makes sense for the company to use packaging,” he said.  

“He did say that they’ve done research into it and they believe that it makes more environmental sense to package some things in plastic, and they want to be more aware of when it’s not making sense and they are moving towards that.”

Mr Mayell, who plays keyboards in a Kate Bush tribute band called Cloudbusting, said he did not realise who he was speaking to until he noticed “bemused” members of staff looking on.

“I said to him, ‘can I just check are you the branch manager?’ And he said, ‘no I am Sainsbury’s CEO’,” Mr Mayell said.

“He had all the time in the world for me, he looked like he really wanted to talk about it, he engaged about it and he was proud about where they were going.”

A spokesperson for Sainbury's said: "Mike always enjoys chatting with customers and colleagues about a wide range of topics.