How HelloFresh US manages food safety in our e-commerce supply chain
As an industry-leading food solutions group and the world's leading meal kit provider, food safety has always been HelloFresh’s top priority and we take this topic very seriously. We have implemented the highest standards in our food safety strategy and go above and beyond official regulations in our mission to guarantee the safety of our product. Just recently, the efforts of HelloFresh US’ Food Safety and Quality Assurance (FSQA) team were recognized by the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) with its prestigious Black Pearl Award for outstanding achievements in corporate excellence in food safety.
HelloFresh operates a direct-to-consumer business model that is characterized by its lean and innovative supply chain. What follows below is a comprehensive overview of how our supply chain works and how our FSQA team in the United States ensures food safety along the way. (Read more about the FSQA team in our International segment in this article.) We have built up a FSQA team of almost 100 colleagues at our HQ in New York and around 110 at each of our 15 different distribution centers across the country. In addition to the in-house quality control teams, we also have a supplier quality team that audits suppliers and leads them through a strict onboarding process when they partner with HelloFresh.
HelloFresh operates distribution centers all over the world - 15 of which are located across the continous US.
Upstream supply chain - from the farm to HelloFresh
HelloFresh receives many different categories of food products from hundreds of carefully selected suppliers. In addition to quality control of inbound food, hygiene standards and pest control, temperature is one of the key focus areas for food safety, as temperature is integral to the quality and safety of protein, dairy and fresh produce. Every step of a meal kit's journey involves the need for an incredibly attentive focus on temperature control. Upon arrival of supplier shipments at our distribution centers , qualified personnel inspect the temperature of the ingredients and trailers to determine if the cool chain is still intact and to ensure that quality, freshness and food safety is maintained.
Temperature checks are an essential part of food safety practices.
Downstream supply chain - from HelloFresh to the customers
After the ingredients are processed in our refrigerated distribution centers and once the meal kits have been packed into HelloFresh boxes, they are dispatched for delivery. From our distribution centers, the boxes are sent to local hubs, from where they are delivered to customers. In order to ensure appropriate shipping conditions, all trucks are inspected for appropriate trailer temperatures.
To ensure that our customers receive high quality ingredients, we have developed a complex in-box cooling system, which ensures that temperature sensitive ingredients maintain a refrigerated state during the transit of the box. The cooling system is made up of insulation liners and ice packs. We deliver across the contiguous US in less than 40 hours and in most cases, deliver within a transit time below 24 hours. Our distribution centers are located strategically close to the biggest population centers to ensure short delivery time frames and maximum flexibility for the customers. Should the calculated transit time exceed 48 hours (for example because the box is being delivered to a remote location), our logistic partners use refrigerated trucks for certain sections of the route.
Serving customers across a whole continent comes with a unique set of challenges: on a specific day, our meal kits might be delivered at 20°F (-7°C) outside temperature in Minnesota as well as at 100°F (38°C) in Florida. To serve all customers with the same quality, we dynamically adjust the amount of ice packs and the type of liners, depending on the seasonality and the weather conditions at the delivery destination and along the route.
The Systematic Cooling Concept (and similar tools) are used in HelloFresh markets worldwide to reduce packaging and ensure optimal food safety during delivery.
Validating the cool chain
To ensure that we keep up with the highest food safety standards at every temperature and at any distance, we validate the cool chain in our dedicated packaging labs. There, we test new packaging solutions and their ability to maintain a certain temperature during transit. We regularly log temperature data during these tests and we also routinely conduct box challenge studies during real-time deliveries to ensure our products arrive in a food safe manner. These studies analyze internal protein temperatures, protein chambers, kit bag temperatures and various other compartments of the delivery boxes. They help to ensure the appropriate liner and ice volume is used in our various shipping lanes. Just recently, we started to use a new kind of temperature tracker, which we can follow via satellite to get an even better insight in the delivery route and the related temperature data.
We also gain valuable data from customer feedback. While serving millions of customers each year (in Q2 2022 HelloFresh counted more than four million active customers in the US), we continuously collect their feedback on how to improve the delivery process.
HelloFresh US Senior Director Food Safety, Quality & Regulatory Affairs, Tim Finnerty, accepts the Black Pearl Award for outstanding achievements in corporate excellence in food safety.