LONDON – Ever since meat began selling in pre-cut packs in U.K. supermarkets, it has been packed in plastic overwrapped trays to make it look as presentable as possible. Waitrose’s dropping of meat tray packaging and switching to plastic pouches marks the first time a major U.K. supermarket chain has abandoned the trays on all its meat lines, although others, notably Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer, sell vacuum-packed steaks, according to Telegraph.co.uk.

Waitrose will save 9,000 tonnes of packaging annually by making this move, the company claims.

Some worry that by removing the trays, pouches might press the meat and allow the purge to move around inside the packet, which could negatively impact consumers.

“If vacuum-packed plastic pouches do not have that tray, it could appear less appealing to the consumer, but whether that will affect their purchasing behavior remains to be seen,” said James Wilde, a spokesman for Eblex, the lamb and beef trade body. "However, any ways the red meat supply chain can reduce its environmental impact, in this case in terms of reducing packaging waste, should be investigated.”

Waitrose research indicates shoppers did not mind buying meat in plastic pouches. The pouches will not be vacuum-packed. They will, to use the industry term, be "flow packed", which is the same technology used in the crisp and bagged salad industry.

"These packs are more slimline, which gives shoppers more room in their shopping bags, fridge and when stored in the freezer,” said Andy Boulton, Waitrose meat buyer. “And with the added benefit of cutting waste by half but at no extra cost. I predict that this style of packaging will be a real hit. Feedback from customers has already been really positive as they can still buy the same quality meat products but will be minimizing waste.”

Mince and diced meat will be the first lines to use the bags. If the initial lines are a success, chops, loins and other cuts will be added.