With the holiday season in full swing, this year is going to finish up as one of the best for the eCommerce industry. In the last couple of years, online retail has surged in popularity due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Consumers today are purchasing a wide variety of items through eCommerce platforms, with stay-at-home orders and the general convenience of online shopping making this the most ideal option for many. In 2020 alone, consumers spent around $792 billion online, according to data from Digital Commerce 360. Meanwhile, eMarketer predicts the eCommerce industry to see $930 billion in revenue by the end of 2021.
Online Ordering Is Only Going to Become Increasingly Popular
Although the effects of the pandemic have begun to wane, the eCommerce industry is going to continue growing, with Adobe expecting people to spend as much as $1 trillion online in 2022.
In addition to eCommerce, the restaurant industry has seen a shift because of a change in customer behavior. Before the pandemic, the majority of Americans spent money on restaurants over home-cooked meals. However, during the pandemic and post-pandemic, this completely reversed as restaurants shut down dine-in areas and relegated services to delivery and takeout. In an effort to increase convenience and save money, many shoppers began purchasing their groceries online, largely in the form of subscription meal boxes.
The Increased Demand for Subscription Meal Services
In addition to other forms of eCommerce, subscription services are becoming more and more popular among consumers. It’s to the point where subscription products were worth a total of $18.8 billion in 2020, with that number expected to increase by 20% every year through 2026, according to a report from research firm IMARC Group.
Of all subscription services, food and meal kits earn the highest amount of revenue. This is why now is arguably the best time to get into the subscription meal service market. However, this industry comes with certain challenges that can make it difficult to break into, including locating the right vendors to provide everything from storage and order management to transportation.
How to Locate the Right Logistics Provider for Meal Services
Having the ideal third-party logistics (3PL) provider can help ease the management process and ultimately help save businesses money. At the same time, it can be challenging to locate the right vendor based on your specific needs. Food items, in particular, come with a unique set of needs that make it crucial to find vendors with experience handling these products.
There’s a lot of research that goes into finding the ideal vendor, and without the convenience of Yelp or Google reviews that could otherwise give you a clear idea about whether a vendor is worth selecting. Many vendors don’t even have a presence online, preventing you from doing online research about them entirely.
While it may be difficult to find the right logistics provider, choosing the right vendor is crucial for your business’s success. Without the right 3PL provider, you may end up working with one that has insufficient expertise and experience in your industry.
The wrong vendor may also get orders wrong or be unable to provide temperature-controlled storage and transportation of food products. As a result, your customers could not only wind up unsatisfied, but they may also wind up sick. In turn, your business will suffer from a poor reputation as you struggle to thrive.
If you want to find the perfect logistics provider to help achieve the best possible results from your operations, the following are some helpful tips to guide you through the selection process.
1. Determine the Provider’s Experience With Temperature-Controlled Products
Logistics companies should know what cold and frozen foods require in the way of temperature control. Try to figure out whether the vendor has experience with temperature-controlled logistics and identify the specific types of products they’ve handled. The right vendor will know what types of packaging materials and methods are required for your products.
2. Learn About Food Safety Protocols
Safety is critical for maintaining customers’ health and satisfaction. Meal service companies don’t want to poison their customers with spoiled or contaminated goods, which is why a vendor should have adequate food safety protocols in place. You can ask whether the company’s facility has been Safe Qualified Food-certified. Additionally, you can find out whether the vendor is in compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
3. Find Out Who the Vendor Has Worked With in the Past
You won’t want your business to be a vendor’s first partner. Try to dig into the vendor’s past to see what kinds of partners they’ve had, including brands in your industry. It’s best to find a vendor that has experience working with other companies that produced and delivered temperature-controlled food items.
4. Decide Whether the Vendor Can Help You Grow
Find out how close the vendor’s distribution centers are to your customer base. In some cases, 3PLs may be willing to move to where their partners’ customers are if it’s reasonable for them to do so. Keep in mind that frozen foods come with urgent delivery times, requiring delivery within two days before they begin to thaw.
5. Gauge the Company’s Scalability
As your business grows, your 3PL provider must be able to grow with you. Determine whether the vendor is flexible enough to scale their services to keep up with your expanding operations. With sufficient flexibility, you’ll be comfortable knowing that your vendor can ensure your long-term success.
With these tips in mind, you can locate the most ideal temperature-controlled logistics vendor to help your subscription meal business succeed in this ever-growing industry.