When you order a meal kit online, you actually get two things: the meal itself and a huge pile of containers and packaging that you are now responsible for, and not all of it is recyclable. Dealing with all this excessive waste can give consumers pause when deciding whether or not to re-order.
To help combat this packaging problem, yesterday Otter Products debuted the Liviri container system that can be used — and re-used — to ship meal kits, groceries or other perishables ordered for delivery. The plastic container has vacuum-insulated panels to keep food cold, reusable ice packs, and moveable dividers to separate food or create different climate zones within the box.
Once a customer removes their food, they place a return label on the container to go back to a sanitization facility, where it is cleaned and sent out for another use. According to the company a Liviri Fresh box can be re-used up to 75 times.
Liviri’s website claims its box keeps perishables at properly chilled temperatures for longer than the existing, leading insulated cardboard box solutions. This extended cooling helps prevent food spoilage and, the company says, can increase customer satisfaction.
Jim Parke, CEO of Otter told Fast Company that the company’s container system costs more up front than traditional packaging, but since it’s re-usable there is a cost savings. Plus, he said that Liviri’s eco-friendly and high-performance packaging approach will help meal kit companies reduce their customer churn because consumers can feel better about their less-wasteful orders and experience less spoilage (i.e. food going bad on a front porch).
Liviri is launching at either the best or the worst time, depending on how you look at it. It’s a great time because companies across the food stack are re-examining how they package their products in response to customers’ growing concerns around waste. Veestro switched to 100 percent recyclable packaging for its plant-based meal delivery, WoolCool offers a line of wool-based packaging insulation, and Imperfect Produce started a pilot where it picks up and donates used customer boxes to food banks and charities.
But Liviri is also launching at a time when most of the growth in meal kits is coming from retail, not mail order. Packaging is just one of the issues making customers move away from mail order meal kits. There’s still having to do a lot of work to make the meal, and there is always the problem of a meal sounding good when you click to order it, and little desire to eat it a week or so later when it arrives.
That’s not to say Liviri’s move is a bad one, quite the contrary. The container system can be used for groceries and other perishables, so there is a potential market, well, at the market. And any packaging that is re-useable in the meal journey is welcome in our waste-filled world.