ULMA Packaging UK has released details of new research examining the “e-commerce boom” and how food packaging might be reconfigured for consumer safety in response to the significant growth of online platforms for the food industry.

According to the research, the UK’s online Food Ordering & Delivery Platforms industry has grown by 39.7% per year, on average, between 2016 and 2021.

The pandemic has reportedly had an impact on the rise in food delivery, with online sales jumping 12.4% in October 2021. In the four weeks leading up to the 14th of June 2021, online grocery sales apparently grew by 91% – showing a trend of significant increases in this segment.

ULMA Packaging is hoping to encourage brands across the food sector that are exploring new delivery ventures to carefully consider how they preserve the safety of end consumers.

Ed Williams, sales director at ULMA Packaging, comments: “The growth in e-commerce makes food packs more vulnerable to a number of threats to product. This includes taint, which occurs where goods with strong aroma or fragrance are stored or transported alongside other goods.

“As such, packaging technology selected requires careful consideration to ensure it addresses these specific challenges. In the case of taint, vacuum and protective atmosphere packaging can help to provide a necessary barrier to shield products from contaminants during transit, for example.”

On the shifting trends within the industry, Williams adds: “A key factor driving this demand is convenience. Home food delivery, such as services provided by Deliveroo and Uber Eats, require stiff packaging that can be heated in the microwave and used as plates.

“Then there’s packaging required for online supermarket orders; this involves reducing air transport, adapting volumes to the secondary packaging of every distributor, and providing labelling solutions that facilitate management with consumers.

“The pandemic has also altered the way hotel and restaurant businesses have worked, with many reorienting their businesses towards e-commerce. It is this growing trend that will require packaging solutions for products which previously didn’t required packing.

“Engaging with a reputable packaging machinery supplier is key to maintain pack integrity so that goods arrive at their destination not only with guaranteed food safety but perfect in preservation and appearance.”

This follows research published last week by DS Smith, which claimed that the e-commerce boom associated with Black Friday could result in over 21 million items arriving broken or damaged, partly because of poor packaging – representing a cost of at least £739 million.

To help address some of these issues, such as cross-contamination, ULMA Packaging has developed a leak-proof pack for the poultry processing sector, using its vertical bagmaker machines. Earlier this year, the company also released its modified atmosphere packaging solution for sliced products and a flow pack packaging machine with side sealing and shrink wrap film, intended for portions of cheese.