7 Ecommerce Cold Chain Packaging Trends

Here's what to expect of temperature-controlled packaging as online consumers order more and more perishable pharmaceuticals, foods, and beverages.

Colin Rowland, managing director

June 21, 2024

4 Min Read
Cool smart connected ecommerce packaging
metamorworks/iStock/Getty Images

The increasing globalization of trade has driven growing demand for cold chain logistics to support the transportation of perishable and increasingly ecommerce-based goods like pharmaceuticals, food, and beverages.

The surge in consumer awareness and the desire for fresh, high-quality food products is amplifying the demand for cold chain packaging. This heightened demand is particularly evident in the flourishing ecommerce and online grocery sectors. This, coupled with the fact that a vast range of premium products with a very short shelf life and greater temperature sensitivity are hitting the market, means that the demand for competent cold chain packaging providers is consequently increasing.

The pharmaceutical sector too, has seen a shift. As a result of aging populations, the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases, and the need for advanced healthcare systems, the demand for cold chain packaging solutions to ensure the safe and efficient transport of temperature-sensitive drugs has skyrocketed.  

 In 2024, the temperature-controlled packaging industry, fuelled by increasing demand and expanding global networks will evolve and respond with increasingly resilient, efficient, and competitive cold chain solutions.

 Let’s dive into the anticipated temperature-controlled packaging trends of 2024, and what ecommerce brands and their consumers can expect in the coming year.

Related:Winning Packaging for Ecommerce Grocery

1. Smart & connected packaging

The integration of smart technologies into packaging will continue to be a growing trend. This includes temperature-monitoring sensors, RFID tags, and IoT-enabled devices that provide real-time data on the condition of the shipped products. This not only ensures the quality of goods but also allows for better supply chain visibility. For perishable goods, expect an increasing number of packaging solutions with freshness indicators or sensors that monitor product quality to become increasingly common in 2024. Tech such as QR and AR integration will not only provide product information but also offer immersive experiences, offering deeper brand engagement.

2024 will see more investments in software that can improve visibility of the whole supply chain. Visibility will also allow food traceability, a feature increasingly demanded by consumers.

2. Sustainable packaging

FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) companies are tasked with aligning their brand values and therefore appealing to ever more conscious consumers. The materials their goods are packaged in are under scrutiny. Beyond turning to reusable, recyclable, biodegradable, or eco-friendly packaging solutions to help meet their tough ESG (environmental, social, and governance) goals, brands are using eco-friendly packaging as a marketing opportunity to resonate with target consumers.

3. Making it personal

 Packaging solutions that are tailored to the unique needs of different products, industries, and brands will provide a more effective and efficient approach to temperature control. For ecommerce, flexible packaging that can adjust to different product sizes will become more prevalent, optimizing shipping and reducing waste.  

Brands realize the power of brand recognition at every stage of the transportation journey. Having cold chain packaging solutions that cater to individual brand’s needs, visions, and values, — as well as offering personalized packaging — will set ecommerce packaging providers up for success in 2024.

4. Further collaboration with ecommerce platforms

Closer collaboration between temperature-controlled packaging providers and major ecommerce platforms is expected. This ensures that packaging solutions are optimized for the specific logistics and storage requirements these platforms demand, improving the overall efficiency of the supply chain. 

 There may also be a rise in e-grocery services. More ecommerce companies have now started the door-to-door delivery of groceries, a trend that started in the early days of the pandemic. Temperature controlled packaging providers that can provide timely door-to-door deliveries of perishable items including vegetables, fish and meat will come out on top.

5. Regulatory Compliance

The industry is likely to focus on packaging solutions that meet and exceed regulatory requirements for the transport of pharmaceuticals, biologics, and other sensitive goods. 

 The recent rise in food safety-related incidents and the problem of counterfeit pharmaceutical products have urged authorities to impose stricter regulations on the manufacture and transportation of perishable edible items.

6. Pharma ecommerce

Aging populations and related health issues will influence the growth of the pharmaceutical ecommerce industry, driving a subsequent need for reliable temperature-controlled packaging solutions. 

 Let us not forget the rising trend of healthy food such as probiotic supplements like kombucha. Brands will need reliable cold chain packaging providers to partner with to facilitate this consumer demand. 

7. Automation

Automation will continue to shape the landscape of temperature-controlled packaging in 2024 by improving efficiency and precision. In 2024, we are likely to witness the further integration of robotics in packaging processes — vital in helping the industry keep up with growing demand.  Automation will continue to reduce the risk of human error, but also enhance the speed and accuracy of packaging operations, ultimately increasing the overall reliability, scalability, and compliance of the cold chain, at every stage.

To win in 2024, temperature-controlled packaging providers will need to meet the growing demand of ecommerce brands for bespoke, visible, automated, and sustainable temperature-controlled packaging solutions. Innovation in these areas will support the growing pharmaceutical, health food, and fresh food ecommerce industries. Effective solutions to meet changing consumer demand, tightening regulatory requirements and expanding global networks will be key. 

About the Author(s)

Colin Rowland

managing director, Hydropac

Colin Rowland has over a decade of experience as a managing director, project manager, and sales and marketing director in the cold chain and thermal energy solutions industry.

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