Change packaging to meet grocery delivery demand

Food manufacturers may have to adapt their packaging to meet the requirements of grocery delivery due to COVID-19.

By Sean O'Brien February 16, 2021

In the wake of COVID-19, online grocery delivery has taken off. According to the 2020 Food Packaging & Consumer Behavior Report, 61% of survey respondents said their purchasing habits acquired during the pandemic will influence the way they shop in the future, and 51% reported using third-party grocery delivery apps within the past three months.

In light of this trend, food manufacturers may have to adapt their packaging to meet the requirements of grocery delivery. Instead of packages being stretch-wrapped onto a pallet to be unloaded by grocery store workers, they’ll be boxed and sent directly to consumers’ doorsteps.

That means outgoing packages must be sturdy enough to withstand the increased vibration and movement across a courier’s distribution chain. Some items may be shipped as is or they will have to be sent inside another shipping box padded with extra dunnage (air bags, crinkled paper, bubble wrap). Products packed in glass, cans or other rigid packaging may have to be rethought.

While it might seem like an unnecessary expense to redesign packaging, food plant operators that don’t do this will likely face rising costs from:

  • Increased packaging waste
  • Dunnage
  • Increased corrugation used for packaging orders.

Thankfully, there are a number of solutions food manufacturers can utilize to bring packaging into the e-commerce era while reducing excess costs and environmental waste.

Change the primary packaging

Updating the primary packaging to hold up to the e-commerce distribution system is the first and most obvious solution.

One format that is great for e-commerce is flexible packaging. Not only is it lightweight, which reduces shipping costs compared to heavy jars and cans, but it performs very well in the e-commerce distribution chain, while also fitting into secondary packaging more efficiently.

Food products like pastas, juice, nuts and coffee (just to name a few) can be packed in stand-up pouches and withstand the e-commerce distribution chain.

Employ active packaging design

Active packaging design involves using materials or gases to protect the integrity of the product while maintaining the freshness of the food itself. Both are used to extend shelf life.

Oxygen scavenger packs are a common form of active packaging already in use. The small packets, which usually contain powdered iron or ascorbic acid, are slipped into bags of beef jerky, dog treats and other products to help remove or decrease oxygen in the closed package.

Modified atmosphere packaging takes it a step further by filling packs with inert gases, such as nitrogen, which preserve the shelf life of the product by decreasing the amount of oxygen in a package. It can also help to delay oxidation and decrease the growth of organisms that can spoil the product.

This article originally appeared on Stellar’s Food For Thought BlogStellar is a CFE Media content partner.

Original content can be found at

Author Bio: Sean is experienced in the food and beverage industry and has worked extensively in package engineering for coffee, bakery, beverage, dairy, poultry, read-to-eat and dry foods. Sean has 13 years of industry experience including four years with Stellar.