How FreshDirect and Other Delivery Companies Try to Avoid Packaging Fails

PHOTO: Grocery delivery company FreshDirect says excess packaging examples like this are rare.Courtesy Joe Kemp
Grocery delivery company FreshDirect says excess packaging examples like this -- a box containing only one yogurt -- are rare.

With a trove of companies vying for the on-demand grocery and goods delivery market -- Amazon, eBay, Peapod to name a few -- homebodies unsurprisingly run into sloppy excess packaging that would make Mother Earth shed a tear.

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Joe Kemp from New York City encountered such a shipping mishap when he ordered a long list of groceries from grocery delivery company FreshDirect about a week ago. Kemp told that he received four full cardboard boxes of food, but he was disheartened when he saw what was in a fifth box: one single serving of Chobani yogurt. Kemp noted that was one of six Chobani yogurts he ordered.

Incidents like that are what website Consumerist calls run-ins with the "stupid shipping gang." The site asks readers to email photos of delivered items with excessive wrapping and boxes. And at least according to the diversity of accused companies, everyone commits a shipping fail once in a while.

Shipping and sourcing is a big factor for the bottom line for companies from Walmart to your local grocery store. And it will become even bigger. Retail sales are expected to increase from 3.7 percent last year to 4.1 percent in 2014, according to the National Retail Federation. And online sales are expected to outpace the growth of overall retail sales this year.

"As people order more of our everyday goods online, this will happen more and more," Consumerist recently wrote about a reader's Amazon toilet paper order that came wrapped in layers of more paper protection. "It’s not good to have a case of toilet paper shifting around in its box, but the warehouse might be out of perfectly sized boxes and need to get your order out right away."

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment from

With most companies likely interested in saving money by limiting the shipping material it uses, how do you prevent, say, human error for excess packaging?

FreshDirect, which serves greater New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Philadelphia and Delaware, says shipping mishaps like that of Kemp's are "very infrequent." The company says it tries to use a minimum number of boxes and continues to improve a process that has eliminated "millions of boxes" that otherwise would have been shipped.

Juan Cordero, FreshDirect's director of internal procurement, said, "Every component of FreshDirect’s packaging is recyclable -- from the outer box to the inner protective pieces," adding that many are also 100 percent made from recycled materials.

When developing packaging, Cordero said the company is focused on protecting the freshness and sustaining the quality of food.

FreshDirect works with suppliers to carefully develop custom packaging for many of the products, he said, including fresh produce and dairy, private brand and prepared meals.

Sourcing locally is one example of the company's commitment to reducing its carbon footprint, he said.

"The majority of FreshDirect’s packaging material is manufactured and distributed by partners in the United States, including Bronx and New Jersey-based companies," he said.