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Exploration of the e-commerce prospects for fresh refrigerated food products: how do we determine the best related logistics strategy in terms of food safety, sustainability and affordability?

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 go about that exactly 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.

Research approach

Cool & Fresh Delivery is a collective research, development and dissemination project (COOCK type) and an intercluster VIL and Flanders’ FOOD collaboration. It aims 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.

We intend to obtain this objective by:

  • mapping the current and targeted consumer experiences 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
  • developing a practical company guide

The project studies prospects in the Belgian national and international e-commerce markets, both in a B2C and B2B context.

Participants have the option to incorporate the guidelines developed in their business cases after the project.

And naturally, this project also provides an opportunity to get to know each other and the logistics sector companies, share experiences, and learn from them.

Target group and results

The project targets all companies (SMEs and large enterprises) active in the online sale of fresh refrigerated food, or that plan 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 has the potential to provide packaging companies, cooling technology providers, ICT providers (e-commerce applications/distribution), provinces, POMs, administrative districts, intermunicipal companies, and municipalities with key insights. E-commerce trade associations also stand to benefit from this project.

Ultimately, the goal of this project is to make it easier for companies to:

  • understand consumer expectations related to buying fresh, refrigerated food online
  • pinpoint the specific regulatory and logistical challenges
  • discover what the technical possibilities are
  • learn from global best practices
  • gain insight into what is economically viable

Project partners

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

Flanders' FOOD logo
VIL logo

Contactpersoon

Kevin Winnen
innovation manager
Timothy Lefeber
research manager

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