Tesco announces major change in fruit and veg aisle that could soon affect all UK stores

A shopper walks through the salad aisle in a branch of Tesco
-Credit: (Image: Aaron Chown/PA Wire)


Tesco shoppers may soon notice a high-tech change to product labelling in the fruit and veg aisle, which could help the supermarket giant eliminate millions of pieces of plastic. If successful, the small plastic barcode labels, a staple in British supermarkets for years, could be replaced by lasers.

In a variety of its stores, Tesco, the UK's largest supermarket, has begun a trial of etching barcodes into its avocados using a powerful laser - a move that would replace fruit barcode stickers with a simple, eco-friendly laser etching.

The lasers remove a thin layer of the product's skin to create the barcode effect, which customers can then scan at any of the supermarket's checkouts. Westfalia Fruit, Tesco's avocado supplier, said avocados are perfect for this laser trial due to their thick outer skin.

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A computer programme directs the lasers to inscribe size information onto the avocados, with the process taking just a third of a second. Once lasered, the avocados essentially have a tattoo on their skin displaying information for customers and cashiers, such as the size or variety of the fruit. Westfalia Fruit has carried out extensive trials to ensure that the quality, shelf life and taste of the popular salad item is not affected by the laser etchings, reports the Manchester Evening News.

Tesco, selling nearly 70 million avocados annually with demand for the fruit escalating by 15 per cent in the past year, revealed it will kick off with laser engravings on the humongous avocados, offering the highest visual impact. Test runs for replacing plastic tray packaging with recyclable cardboard containers for two of its most popular avocado lines are also underway.

With trials set to take place in around 270 Tesco shops in South-East England, if shoppers provide positive feedback, this will be implemented across all Tesco stores. In a ground-breaking trial, the supermarket heavyweight is teaming up with Westfalia Fruit - the UK's top avocado supplier based in Spalding, Lincolnshire.

If this effort is extended to all its stores, Tesco claimed it could eradicate over 20 million plastic pieces from its twin pack avocados alone, possibly soaring to 25 million across its pre-packed range. According to recent sales data, almost one million plastic stickers can be removed from loose extra-large avocados.

Commenting on the initiative, Lisa Gilbey, Tesco's avocado buyer, noted: "We're always looking for innovative ways to reduce the environmental impact of our products, and cut down on plastic waste in the home through changes to our packaging."

"We're really excited to hear customer feedback on our new laser-etched avocados, avoiding the need for a barcode sticker that can easily be forgotten and left on when recycling through household food waste."

Graham Isaac, general manager at Westfalia Fruit, also commented: "(We) continually seeks ways to improve our environmental performance and operate in a responsible manner, by focusing on priorities such as reducing and wherever possible, removing plastic from our packaging to contribute to solving the plastic waste challenge."

"We are confident that, with a clear focus and united effort as an industry, we will be able to significantly reduce our waste, use natural resources responsibly and protect the environment and biodiversity for all our futures."

Over the past few weeks, these laser-etched avocados have gradually been making their way to Tesco stores across the country. By this weekend, they are expected to be available in all participating stores.