Hong Kong store selling strawberries individually wrapped - for HK$168 - defends its packaging

The pricey fruit - sold as Valentine’s Day gifts - was imported from Japan pre-wrapped for ‘quality protection’, supermarket chain says, and it pledges to seek a balance between packaging and hygiene amid outcry from green groups

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2017, 12:34pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 February, 2017, 10:09am

Hong Kong supermarket City’super has defended its selling of individually packaged strawberries – at HK$168 (US$21.70) each – and explained they are being sold as Valentine’s Day gifts.

“We have noted recent customer feedback [about] the packaging and we will seek to strike a balance between packaging and food protection,” the supermarket chain said.

The chain came under fire this week when images circulated on social media showing one Kotoka strawberry in a straw nest and plastic-covered paper box with a Styrofoam “sock” being sold at its Causeway Bay outlet in Times Square.

Hong Kong supermarket selling strawberries individually wrapped for HK$168 as pressure grows to reduce packaging

“The strawberry gift box was imported from Japan with its original packaging given its premium grade, rarity and fragility for quality protection ... From Kotoka, the strawberries are considered as delicacies of limited quantity and they are handpicked to ensure only the highest quality ones are harvested. It is intended as a Valentine’s Day gift ... we are hoping to bring more choices of premium fresh produce to Hong Kong customers,” City’super said.

It said the retail prices of its products are based on a number of considerations, including purchase price, transport costs, market conditions and product exclusivity.

The retail chain – which operates in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan – said product quality, hygiene and environmentally friendliness are among its considerations in packaging fresh produce.

We have noted recent customer feedback [about] the packaging and we will seek to strike a balance between packaging and food protection

“In the past years, we have been gradually reducing the amount of pre-packed fruits and vegetables by introducing more loose sales of fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, we are also aware of customers’ concern [for] hygiene and [the] quality of products. Different packaging methods are used, depending on the level of fragility, storage and protection needs [of products].

“In view of this, we strive to research and study different viable ways of packaging. Biodegradable clear plastic bags and shopping bags, food trays and containers made of sugar cane fibre and ... cornstarch, are increasingly used to reduce the use of plastics in our stores.”

City’super said it would continue to make efforts to reduce packaging “while looking for better environmental friendly packaging methods to protect the environment”.

The sale of the individually wrapped strawberries drew fire from enviromental and conservation groups in Hong Kong, and comes as a petition is circulating in the city calling on supermarkets to reduce the use of plastic.

Gary Stokes, of Sea Shepherd Global, this week launched #trashthecheckout, a campaign pressuring supermarkets to be responsible in their choice of suppliers when it comes to excessive plastic packaging.

“We are saying we don’t want it in plastic and it’s time they [the supermarkets] listened,” says Stokes, who has compiled images from various supermarkets showing which produce can be sold without plastic packaging.

“That one heavily packaged strawberry sold in a box in City’super reminds me of something out of Mad Max – like it’s the last strawberry on Earth. It’s ridiculous,” he says.