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How green are your groceries?


How green are your groceries?

Ian Kerr

How green are your groceries? There’s growing focus on the carbon footprint and environmental impact of grocery delivery.

Some grocers are using cargo bikes (pedal powered or electric) to boost their green credentials, but they form only a part of grocers’ delivery fleets, which are still stacked with diesel vans.

Dutch grocery start-up Picnic has built up a 100% electric delivery fleet. Picnic’s restrictions on ordering (orders have to be placed by 10pm the previous day, and deliveries are made at set times for each neighbourhood) reduce the distance travelled by its drivers - not to mention reducing food wastage for fresh products such as bread, which are prepared fresh to order each night.

More recently, Picnic announced it will install solar panels on top of its electric delivery vehicles.

In the UK, grocery chain Sainsbury’s has two electric vans in its home delivery fleet. It’s a start… but that’s all. And consider that a 2018 study named Sainsbury’s the UK’s “greenest supermarket”, finding the retailer to be the least polluting of all UK supermarkets.

The market for the delivery of fresh groceries has enormous potential for growth. In Germany and the USA, annual growth expectations for eGrocery from 2018 to 2023 are running at about 20 per cent. In the UK, considered by many to be the most mature e-commerce market, annual growth stands at 8.7 per cent.

A key question for the sector relates to the last mile. Should it be outsourced? Or brought in house? What does this mean for branding and for customer-centric delivery features such as specific delivery windows. What gives a higher quality of service?

The sector faces major challenges when it comes to transporting temperature-sensitive goods. Different foods require different storage temperatures, complicating the matter of optimising the usage and cooling of the load space.

Then there’s access to green zones. Growing numbers of cities restrict access to low emissions vehicles - and not everything can be delivered by cargo bike.

“The battery-electric cargo bike, owned by the grocer, is a perfect fit for grocery delivery in dense urban areas with severe traffic congestion. It’s an inexpensive delivery vehicle, easy to manoeuvre in traffic and can cost effectively serve city dwellers who don’t own a car.” - Dean Maciuba, Director Consulting Services, Logistics Trends & Insights

Mercedes-Benz Vans, in partnership with body kit manufacturer Kerstner, has developed an eGrocery vehicle for urban areas based on the eVito van. It has an electric drive and battery-electric refrigeration system.

Food safety is one of many factors critical to the success of grocery delivery. Delivery vehicles must be capable of transporting food at the right temperature, carrying enough volume to make delivery profitable, and be capable of entering green zones.

We can be sure of one thing - drones won’t be part of the solution. A more practical solution might involve insulated shipping cartons with temperature monitoring technology that can be carried in electric vehicles.

“EVs can help reduce delivery’s carbon footprint (provided electricity isn’t mainly generated from coal) and any initiative in this space is good. Another way to be greener is to improve successful first time delivery via unattended delivery methods like smart locks.” - Marek Różycki, Managing Parter, Last Mile Experts

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