NEW YORK — FreshDirect, which provides meals to more than 250,000 customers in the New York metropolitan area via its online delivery service, has found a novel way to meet customer needs and promote itself while supporting the environment.
Since April, FreshDirect has been delivering online meals and fresh foods inside a new line of boxes made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper.
The boxes are not only good for the environment, they are cost-effective and durable, said Leitha Matz, FreshDirect's senior content manager. The boxes are able to withstand jostling on conveyor belts at the company's production/distribution facility, as well as protect their perishable contents even as they journey as far as 100 miles to the homes of customers.
Unlike the ordinary delivery boxes that they replaced, the new boxes, made by New York-based Southern Container Corp., can more easily be used as a versatile marketing medium. “We did previously print marketing materials on our boxes, but it was a more protracted process,” said Matz. “Southern Container makes it easy to change our messages as often as we'd like.”
CONVEYING THE MESSAGE
Because FreshDirect does not have a physical presence in the form of brick-and-mortar stores, it needs to uses its trucks and boxes to help build and maintain consumer awareness.
“We use everything that we have as a means of conveying messages about our products and our services,” said Matz. “On our boxes and trucks, we will print messages about services that customers may not know we have, such as the fact that we deliver to offices and corporations.”
When FreshDirect first began looking for a new supplier of delivery boxes, it was interested in finding boxes that were made from recycled materials and that could be recycled. “But we weren't sure we could find boxes that would be durable enough to protect the food and also be boxes that we could handle from a cost perspective,” said Matz.
Matz said FreshDirect's management was “thrilled when we found out these were also recycled boxes.”
FreshDirect also uses another innovative package made with a special steam vent to transport its chef-designed meals to its customers.
“We can put fresh ingredients — uncooked chicken, seared meats, fresh vegetables — into one package,” said Matz. “And when the customer is ready to eat, they just put that meal into the microwave, and in about three minutes they can sit down to dine. A fresh meal literally becomes a cooked meal in just minutes.”
The packaging, called Dream Steam, was developed by Creative New Food, Eglisau, Switzerland, and was first commercialized in Switzerland by the Migros supermarket chain. “Chefs have really been interested in using it,” said Matz, “because it's a great way to deliver a portable meal to a person in one container.”
Customer response to the chef-designed meals and the 100% recycled delivery boxes has been positive, said Matz. “Our customers tell us they love the convenience and the quality of the chef-designed meals, and that they are thrilled to see us doing something with recyclables that is good for the environment.”
FreshDirect has other environmental initiatives pending, including a recent agreement made with Tri-State Biodiesel, New York, a company that recycles FreshDirect's used cooking oil for use in low-emissions, nontoxic biodiesel fuel. “We are working with Tri-State to help them install a biodiesel [fuel] pump close to us so we can use it for our deliveries,” said Matz.
Fresh Direct is also:
Teaching its delivery teams about energy-efficient practices, from minimizing periods of truck idling to reducing the temperature change between deliveries.
Working with local government to allow its trucks to plug into electrical outlets, alleviating the need for diesel-powered refrigeration.
Designing a delivery truck refrigeration system that eliminates diesel-powered cooling while maintaining optimal food temperature during deliveries.