Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research has helped the Dutch post company PostNL to develop coolant packaging that will enable supermarkets to make cost and energy efficient deliveries to their customers. Fresh produce can be delivered to customers at the right temperature, safeguarding shelf life and quality. PostNL and the Dutch online supermarket Vershuys.com will be using the packaging in the home delivery service they introduced in the province of Limburg earlier this year.
The coolant packaging is made from a high-insulation material, and contains exactly the right number of cooling elements to ensure that a pack of meat, fish, dairy, vegetables and/or fruit is delivered to a customer at a maximum temperature of 7ºC. This guarantees the shelf life and quality of the goods, regardless of whether the customer lives two or twenty kilometres from the supermarket. The supermarket no longer needs to use refrigerated transport, making the deliveries cost and energy efficient.
Predicting shelf life and quality
Researchers at Food & Biobased Research, with broad expertise in the field of quality, durability and packaging of perishable produce, went in search of the most suitable material for coolant packaging. They also devised an advanced model for predicting the course of the temperature in product packages. “The model allows us to calculate how quickly the temperature in the package will rise for certain combinations of products, and how the temperature is distributed inside the package”, explains Matthijs Montsma, researcher on the project.
Being able to predict the course of the temperature inside the package enables supermarkets to decide how many cool elements to include, where they should be placed and how long the delivery can take. This will allow them to optimise their logistics and guarantee food safety at the same time. Tests have shown that the temperature in the worst insulated coolant packaging rises above 4°C after six hours; this takes twelve hours in the best insulated coolant packaging.
Home delivery service
PostNL and online supermarket Vershuys.com introduced their home delivery service in March of this year, initially as a pilot in and around Venlo, and from 22 May throughout the province of Limburg. A second pilot will see shopping delivered in the evenings (on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 18.00 and 21.30 hrs). On delivery, PostNL takes the coolant packaging away for reuse.