Grocery retail is shifting and evolving and distribution channels are changing. Driven by changing consumer needs, expectations  and technology advancements – direct-to-consumer fresh food deliveries are growing rapidly. Recipe boxes, meal  kits, artisan dairy products, fresh and frozen proteins including meats, fish and shellfish all require careful temperature maintenance throughout the delivery process.

Ecommerce distribution channels are typically longer, more complex, and considerably less subject to standardisation and control at the critical ‘last mile’ end of the supply chain than traditional store-retail supply. Perishable goods may sit unattended for hours if the recipient is not home at the time of delivery.

A 2017 study of meal kit providers found that nearly half (47%) of the 684 proteins ordered arrived at temperatures deemed too high for consumption* Such a high statistic reinforces just how difficult it can be to maintain cold-chain integrity. Added to this, couriers typically refuse to take responsibility for perishable items and the blame will fall on the brand’s shoulders if the customer is not happy. In such a demanding shipment environment products need to be properly packed to stand up to every aspect of the delivery process.

How Smithers can help

Smithers has extensive experience supporting clients in understanding and assessing the performance of their packaging for cold-chain integrity. We can audit your shipment journey and simulate those conditions in a lab environment to test your packaging.

Testing capabilities

  • We offer formalised testing as well as bespoke capabilities for more complex supply chains
  • Test standards used include ISTA 7D. This is a development test to evaluate the effects of external temperature exposures of individual products
  • Pallet sized samples: Our labs are equipped to carry out tests with pallet sized samples so delivery conditions can be replicated
  • -70 C to +150 C: We can test within a large temperature range, looking at the best possible conditions for individual food products
  • Outside temperature monitoring using multiple probes throughout a pallet or shipper.


  • Packaging optimization: By understanding how your packaging performs we can help you balance the cost, complexity and weight of packaging required to avoid over or under packaging your shipment whilst preserving cold-chain integrity.
  • Reduce waste and spoilage: The cost of waste from breaches in cold chain is high both from a brand and consumer confidence perspective and the environmental impact.
  • Planning for the ‘last mile’: Understand and test your shipment packaging to withstand uncontrolled conditions towards the end of its journey to your consumers.

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