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Explore the potential of e-commerce for fresh, refrigerated food products: How do we approach this logistically with a view to food safety, sustainability and economic feasibility?

Why this project? 

2020 was a great year for product- e-commerce. However, for the time being, online sales of fresh, refrigerated food remain quite limited. And yet the market potential for this category is huge. For food companies, though, how to exactly go about that remains a bit of a puzzle. Especially in terms of logistics, there are also several food-related factors that make things somewhat trickier than in other sectors. To pick out the two, more or less most critical roadblocks, consider the limited shelf life, and the fact that there is a near-constant demand for a diverse range of products. What’s more, there are still dozens of questions related to consumer expectations in this area, and it’s hard to assess what works economically, and where the legal bottlenecks lie. The Cool & Fresh Delivery project aims to provide answers to those questions and challenges.  

Methodology and results

Cool & Fresh Delivery was a collective research, development and dissemination project (COOCK type) and an intercluster VIL and Flanders’ FOOD collaboration. It aimed to explore the e-commerce prospects for fresh refrigerated food products and determine the best related logistics strategy in terms of food safety, sustainability and affordability. 

The project will develop guidelines for an economically viable and scalable logistics model, including the integration of existing last-mile logistics.

This was achieved by: 

  • Mapping the experiences of 1000 current and targeted consumers in Belgium in the area of fresh food delivery. 
  • Learning from existing best practices. 
  • Obtaining legal advice on food safety regulations 
  • Conceiving of and listing various options, concepts, and business models for a legally sound, economically viable and scalable logistics model, including the potential for integration into existing last-mile logistics. 
  • Researching technical possibilities for packaging, cooling techniques, and ICT during transport 

Access to the project results

All results are compiled, per section, in 4 extensive publications: “De online consument: Verwachtingen, behoeften en obstakels” [The online consumer: Expectations, needs and obstacles], “Gids voor goede parktijken en HACCP voor de last-mile distributie van levensmiddelen in België” [Guide to good practices and HACCP for the last-mile distribution of foodstuffs in Belgium], “Koeloplossingen voor koelverse en diepvriesvoeding” [Refrigerated solutions for refrigerated fresh food and frozen food] and “Logisiteke modellen voor koelverse en diepvriesvoeding” [Logistics models for refrigerated fresh food and frozen food].

These publications are available to members free of charge.  

Target group

The project’s target audience was all companies (SMEs and large enterprises) active in the online sales of fresh refrigerated food, or that planned to move in that direction, such as food companies with e-commerce activities or ambitions, auctions and wholesalers, traders, e-shops, and logistics service providers involved in last-mile distribution.  

Moreover, the project also provided key insights for packaging companies, cooling technology providers, ICT providers (e-commerce applications/distribution), provinces, POMs, administrative districts, intermunicipal companies, and municipalities. E-commerce trade associations also stand to benefit from this project. 

Project partners 

The project was managed and coordinated by VIL, the Flemish logistics sector hub. VIL and Flanders’ FOOD were responsible for its execution. 

Flanders' FOOD logo
VIL logo


Kevin Winnen
innovation manager
Timothy Lefeber
research manager