Amazon has developed a new, more sustainable form of insulated food packaging that is not only made from recycled paper, but also easily recyclable. The packaging keeps online grocery orders within a safe temperature range throughout the cold chain.
There is a great need for a sustainable and viable packaging solution. Online grocery sales increased 300% from 2019 to 2020, because the pandemic helped prime the pump. Now that consumers are comfortable ordering perishables and other groceries online, sales will continue to flow. Mercator Advisory Group predicts that online grocery shopping will be around 22% by 2025, up from 10% of the overall grocery market in 2020. And Amazon expects its own Online edible grocery sales are on the rise at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13% from 2021 to 2026.
For now, Amazon uses paper-based packaging for frozen and chilled food deliveries from Whole Foods Market and Amazon Fresh. Amazon rolled out the new packaging just before Thanksgiving 2021, in preparation for food orders for the holidays.
Unlike previous generations of insulated packaging, the new format does not require bubble bags or plastic liners. And it can be recycled at the curb, along with other paper-based materials.
An Amazon blog post written by Stephenie Landry, vice president of grocery at Amazon, explored aspects of the new packaging and the considerations that motivated its development. The five key criteria were:
• Maintain the cold chain and ensure food security.
• Creation of compact and flexible packaging adapted to the needs of Amazon delivery drivers.
• Easy recyclability.
• Scalability and low cost.
• Generate less packaging for consumers.
Amazon kicked off a pilot with the new packaging in 2020 after performing thermal efficiency testing in internal and external laboratories in North America and Europe. The pilot phase included several cities and temperature scenarios.
To get additional feedback on the performance of the package under real conditions, Amazon used “secret buyers”. In addition, the company has been attentive to feedback from consumers and employees on the packaging techniques that give the best results in terms of temperature control.
The durability benefits of the new packaging are significant. According to Landry, “Switching to all recyclable curbside insulation packaging reduces material waste and annually replaces approximately 735,000 pounds of plastic wrap, 3.15 million pounds of natural cotton fiber and 15 million pounds of non-recyclable mixed plastic. “
She added that Amazon is purchasing the new packaging regionally in the United States. This enables the company to deliver the packs to Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market stores “with fewer kilometers traveled throughout the supply chain.”