E-commerce solutions for foodservice industryOnline fresh food sales are recording strong growth. In the UK, fresh food e-commerce, also called “e-food,” is valued at £7.8 billion and is the largest market of its kind in Europe. Across the continent, e-food sales are expected to rise from 21% to 34% by 2018.

To capitalize on this market growth and drive food and beverage e-commerce sales, traditional and online retailers are increasing their digital capabilities. However, as retailers invest in their digital infrastructures, they must also take a holistic view of the consumer experience. In particular, it is important to consider the role of packaging, not just as a functional container offering protection, but as the first and potentially last impression of the company’s brand.

The Moment of Truth

Convenience is a key driver of online perishable food sales and consumers are increasingly willing to pay a premium for this. But with higher cost comes higher expectations. In addition to concerns about food quality and safety, consumers considering online food purchases weigh the risks of product damage, the potential hassle of returns and refunds, and the environmental impacts of over-packaging and product transportation.

Indeed, logistics operators, brand consultants and consumer behavior experts all agree on the fact that the key driver of sales– the real “moment of truth” in the fresh food e-commerce industry—occurs the moment people receive and open the box. This is their first chance to assess what they’ve ordered and to verify their level of satisfaction with what they’ve spent their money on. At this point, a negative experience will be quickly shared and amplified as consumers increasingly turn to their social media communities for validation. Now, more than ever, e-commerce companies must ensure a positive, memorable customer experience.

Reinventing Packaging for E-commerce Solutions

In the final step of the customer experience journey, packaging is as significant as the product itself, and it requires a dedicated strategy. Standard retail shelf packaging is often not sufficient to address the protection and merchandising needs of the e-food market. Therefore, fresh food e-commerce companies looking to meet consumer demands need to rethink and reinvent both primary and secondary packaging.

Appropriate primary packaging is crucial to reducing product damages during delivery, extending shelf life, boosting the brand and offering the visual “wow effect”. Effective secondary packaging should reduce packaging waste through cube optimisation and reusability while also guaranteeing freshness and cooling. Both types of packaging must be easy for consumers to open, while still sufficiently protecting against contaminants. In the end, putting the consumer experience first can improve operational efficiency and significantly contribute to market growth.

The Future of E-food Packaging

As perishable food e-commerce continues to grow and technology evolves, so will consumer expectations. Shoppers will expect shorter delivery times and more traceability of their orders. The focus on tracking products will extend throughout the supply chain with consumers increasingly interested in food miles and sourcing. Packaging technology has the potential to address these demands, providing real time information about location and even product condition. 

Realizing the vast commercial opportunities in the e-food industry requires channel specific packaging to build brands, guarantee food safety and protection, and address sustainability concerns. Ultimately, these factors will optimize the “moment of truth,” encourage repeat purchasing and ensure positive consumer recommendations.

To explore technical packaging solutions and strategic opportunities in the transformation of the perishable food online supply chain, reserve your spot for Enabler 2 event at Packforum ® in Paris on June 7-8. You can also connect with Sealed Air Food Care on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on news and trends in food and beverage packaging.