Europe’s supermarkets are leading on sustainability

Ahold Delhaize gives customers a health rating in products to nudge shoppers to healthier more sustainable choices.

Last month, a British supermarket grabbed headlines by promising to push back against the “unfair” price of plant-based foods, which often cost more than animal products. My first thought was that this was a marketing ploy, but The Co-operative Group’s $2.37 million investment in reducing prices will have a real impact. The cost of the company’s own-brand plant-based burgers and sausages will more than halve, for instance. 

The news was the latest in a series of eye-catching initiatives from European supermarkets aimed at nudging consumers to healthier and more sustainable options. In Belgium, for instance, the Delhaize chain has an app that suggests healthy alternatives to shoppers, with a discount of 5 percent or more included to incentivize the switch. The chain’s parent company, Ahold Delhaize, analyses thousands of products to determine a health rating and uses a color-coded “Nutri-Score” label to convey the results to shoppers. The ratings arrived in Belgium stores in 2018 before expanding to other European chains operated by Ahold Delhaize. By 2025, they will be used in all the markets the company operates in.

Back in the U.K., rival chains Asda and Waitrose are experimenting with stores that offer more product types in unpackaged formats, from rice and pasta to drinks and detergent. The idea is to cut plastic waste by encouraging consumers to buy and store the products in reusable containers that they bring back to fill up. Asda also has committed to eliminating another pricing structure that inhibits sustainable shopping: the practice of charging more for fruit and vegetables that don’t come wrapped in plastic. Read more

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