Why meal kits are an environmentally friendly alternative to shopping in traditional grocery stores
In 2019, our customers cooked more than 281 million HelloFresh meals. That gave us 281 million opportunities to positively impact the environment - and essentially also our customers’ lives. At the scale we operate at, our choices really matter and we can inspire others to follow.
While convenience is becoming more and more relevant in our everyday lives, minimizing the environmental impact is gaining in importance. At HelloFresh, this is something we care about a lot, and so do our customers. In the past years we have found that very often, environmentally friendly choices are also smart business decisions. That’s why we are doubling down on our efforts.
Some people may argue that ordering food, fashion, books, furniture or basically anything you can think of online takes a toll on the environment. However, if you compare our business model to a traditional retailer, we actually have a much better environmental footprint end-to-end. Here is why:
1. Pre-portioned ingredients significantly reduce the amount of food waste
Food waste is a huge contributor to global carbon emissions. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, around 1.3 billion tonnes of food produced for human consumption in the world gets lost or wasted. Different studies claim that with retailers, between 30-40% of fresh produce is wasted at different steps of the supply chain. At HelloFresh, less than 0.5% of food goes to waste. This is a huge advantage not only for our customers (as we can pass on some of these savings to them) but also for the environment.
By avoiding or strongly limiting food waste, we have a very positive impact on carbon emissions. The key to our inherent advantage is the demand-driven supply chain we operate. Each week our customers tell us the exact meals they want to cook. We only confirm our final orders with our suppliers when we know the exact amount of ingredients we need. We then send our customers only what they require to prepare the perfect dinner at home - eliminating food waste almost completely.
2. A direct-to-consumer supply chain means lower CO2 emissions from farm to fork
We operate a direct-to-consumer supply chain. Here are three reasons why a direct-to-consumer supply chain produces lower carbon emissions than that of a classic retailer with a large store footprint:
Our supply chain is significantly shorter: We eliminate all middlemen wherever possible, such as wholesalers, importers or central hubs. Less steps mean less miles traveled for our food, less packaging and repackaging needed and less food wasted at every step of the value chain. All of these factors significantly reduce the overall amount of CO2 per gram food delivered.
We operate a small number of highly efficient manufacturing sites all around the world to deliver more than 281 million meals to our customers. Unlike food retailers, there is no network of thousands of shops and there are no central hubs and warehouses all across the country. All of these need to be supplied with lighting, heating and cooling facilities, driving up food retailer’s electricity bills!
We are constantly optimizing our delivery routes together with our logistics partners. In markets where we operate our own fleet, such as in Benelux, we even have our own electric fleet that delivers meals for up to 60 households in one single round-trip, saving many customers their own trip to the supermarket in an under-utilised vehicle.
3. Leading innovation helps improve and reduce packaging
The good news is that we already score pretty well in that area overall. The bad news is that this is often not our customers’ perception and this is related to the fact that we have done a poor job at explaining it to them.
With HelloFresh, most of the packaging across the whole supply chain ends up directly in your kitchen. If instead you buy your groceries in a supermarket, you only see the packaging at supermarket level but, don’t forget, that’s just a small fraction of what is being used in the entire value chain end-to-end. If you take this into account, our research suggests that meal kits produce a lot less packaging.
Yet, we are working on many initiatives to further decrease the amounts and materials we use, to make it recyclable where we can or even get rid of it altogether. Amongst many other initiatives, we have two state-of-the-art labs that are innovating on new packaging formats and cooperating with leading universities to develop more environmentally friendly packaging options.
As a result of this, we have entirely eliminated black plastics from our products and we’re introducing fully recyclable paper pouches (the ones in which your ingredients are cooled). We have also made the switch from gel to 100%-water based ice packs, another major step forward.