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FRESH CHAIN

Orders of groceries, meals, and pharmaceuticals are driving growth in the fulfillment and delivery of temperature-controlled goods through standard networks, creating new challenges for picking, packaging, and transporting shipments with temperature integrity. To enable this fresh chain of single shipments, the industry must develop and implement special processes, innovative cold-chain packaging, and optimized infrastructure.

Key Developments & Implications

For the past two years, the global online fresh food industry has experienced dynamic changes, albeit disproportionately across regions. Pre-COVID-19 forecasts had Asia leading online grocery sales while in the US, sales increased by 15% in 2019 with the average basket size expanding by 6%. Meal kit subscriptions have skyrocketed, and grocery store chains globally have responded by offering their own meal kit services to customers.

Meanwhile in the medical industry, virtual consultations gained traction, especially for minor illnesses and regular follow-up consultations, leading to more deliveries of prescribed medicine to patients.

COVID-19 and subsequent lockdowns have accelerated the growth and normalization of fresh chain. Still, the results are mixed as fresh produce and medicine chains struggle to keep pace with unprecedented demand spikes. With increasing demand for home deliveries in the future, the logistics industry must develop and adopt new strategies and operational models to build resilience. 

  • On-demand delivery of fresh goods is expected to continue surging with more retailers offering omnichannel experiences. However, culture, accessibility to fresh products, and infrastructure will determine the shape and success of such services across countries. In digitally integrated and highly urbanized China, the country’s largest hypermarket chain rolled out 1-hour deliveries services from all its stores, while in the US, the Buy Online, Pickup in Store (BOPIS) model prevails.

    Meanwhile, grocery e-commerce experienced only modest growth in Germany during the pandemic as people continued to visit local shops multiple times a week to get fresh produce. Supply chain professionals will need to tailor strategies and infrastructure, such as bundled refrigerated orders and automated subscriptions, to each location to best optimize operations.

  • Global cold-chain networks are penetrating more markets as refrigeration and monitoring technology becomes cheaper, allowing perishable and temperature-sensitive shipments to travel further. Developments in the IoT space have additionally contributed to the growth of cold-chain networks, with cheaper devices that allow highly accurate remote temperature tracking and adjustment capabilities of food and pharmaceutical temperatures in real time.

  • Fresh packaging innovations will enable sensitive biotic products to be transported safely while cutting down on waste through intelligent and data driven monitoring of temperatures. This will allow for early intervention, and in some cases even reducing the need for climate-controlled trucks and containers in the supply chain. With accurate labeling that monitors and indicates changed conditions (E.g. exposure to volatile gases) waste is reduced as shippers only need to discard compromised items.

Logistics Trend Radar 5th Edition

Logistics is entering a transformative decade and trend foresight has never been more important. Download the full Logistics Trend Radar to get invaluable insights and inspiration into 29 key trends and innovations that could impact your business in the next years.


Talk to an Expert

Michel Heck

Innovation Manager, Trend Research
DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation

Michel is a passionate Innovation Manager and creative problem solver. In his role, Michel is shaping the overall innovation agenda at DHL through developing industry trend reports and identifying, piloting and commercializing state-of-the art technology solutions for the logistics industry and its customers. Within the Trend Research team, Michel’s work focuses on future application areas of drone technologies within logistics operations and the introduction of upcoming packaging innovations to the business.

Michel joined Deutsche Post DHL Group in 2017 and worked for the global innovation team at the Innovation Centers in Germany and Singapore. Michel studied in France and Germany and holds a Masters degree with a focus on Technology & Innovation Management.


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