Key points for attention in the online sale of fruit and vegetables are quality and food safety. Another factor to take into consideration is packaging. Can standardised packaging guarantee the desired product quality, food safety and customer experience standards?
Although no specific rules apply to online sales - as opposed to traditional sales methods - online sales channels will need to observe the same quality and food safety regulations as other food suppliers. ‘Food safety is a priority issue,’ says Nicolette Quaedvlieg, policy officer for Quality & Food Safety at het GroentenFruit Huis.
'People are less disappointed when they pick up a product at the supermarket with a quality defect than if they had bought the same product with the same quality issues online.'
She also believes that the quality of online products should be better than what is offered by supermarkets. ‘You have to take it one step further. People are less disappointed when they pick up a product at the supermarket with a quality defect than if they had bought the same product with the same quality issues online. That’s simply not acceptable to them.’ Additionally, Quaedvlieg points out that consumers purchasing produce online need information about the product’s country of origin. Online sales platforms are also required - just as shops and restaurants - to provide information about allergens, both on their websites and upon delivery to the customer.
Martijn van Andel of JEM-id is also convinced that consumers should get the best possible quality when they order something online. ‘And that’s possible, because you leave out several links in the distribution chain. Going grocery shopping three times a week is actually ridiculous, since 90% of the products you buy are identical. Neither is grocery shopping a particularly interesting experience. There are few people who genuinely enjoy shopping for groceries.’
'Consistency in quality and freshness is only possible through short lines and foolproof chain cooperation with preferably local suppliers.'
Harrij Schmeitz of the Fresh Informationmanagement Center emphasises that the quality of online groceries not only needs to be good; it must also be consistent. ‘The consumer must not be disappointed. If consumers fail to find the quality they seek online, you will lose them and they will purchase their products elsewhere.’ Consistency in quality and freshness is, according to Machiel Reinders, senior researcher at LEI Wageningen University Research Centre, only possible through short lines and foolproof chain cooperation with preferably local suppliers. ‘Good customer service is also of paramount importance.’
The range of packaging currently available can only partially guarantee the desired standard of quality and consumer experience, says Reinders. He indicates that there is a demand for better packaging, particularly for more delicate products. ‘Special packaging is also needed for the cooled transport of products. PostNL has conducted several experiments with Vershuys.com, for example, in which they explored the possibility of using special coolers for the shipment of fresh food products.’
'The range of packaging currently available can only partially guarantee the desired standard of quality and consumer experience.'
The researcher also points out that packaging can also enhance consumer experience through the addition of supplementary information, or visual materials, for example. ‘On the other hand, one of the trends in modern society is to desire to curb the amount of packaging waste. To put it briefly, there are still plenty of opportunities for innovation in the field of packaging fir the online market. This is one of the issues on which the Fresh ONLINE Pack project will be focusing in the next few years to come.’
Text: Tuinbouwteksten.nl/Ank van Lier. Photo: HelloFresh.com
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