Better Service Through Packaging Solutions
How a Personalized Grocery Delivery Service Standardizes Case Sealing
By Bradley Dunlap, senior product manager of packaging at Shurtape Technologies LLC
When the world’s first personalized grocery delivery service company launched in Sweden in 2007, most people couldn’t have predicted the massive industry that would follow.
But like any business idea with staying power, it didn’t take long for the new trend to migrate across the globe. The United States saw its first three meal subscription services launch in 2012, and the U.S. market alone has since grown to a $7 billion industry with more than 150 companies — numbers that are prime to nearly double in just a few short years, according to data analyst Statista.
Online grocery and recipe delivery service Hungryroot, which launched in 2015, has carved its own niche by blending recipe discovery, food planning and shopping to create a stress-relieving, personalized experience. The company has seen unmatched industry growth and success in large part because it is the only grocery and recipe service driven by AI.
When Hungryroot customers sign up, they take a quiz about their food preferences—factors like dietary goals, family size, and more—and then the company’s AI-powered platform fills their cart with grocery and recipe recommendations. Each week, Hungryroot gets to know the customer better, making the experience more personalized and convenient with every visit.
That level of service drove Hungryroot to 44% year-over-year growth in Q3 — above and beyond a staggering 142% revenue growth from 2021. As a result of their skyrocketing demand, Hungryroot partnered with a leading packaging tape manufacturer and solutions provider to implement an automated case sealing solution that helped ensure efficiency and consistency on the packaging line.
Increased demand, increased challenges
Hungryroot processes approximately 40,000 grocery boxes each week across three U.S. fulfillment centers — East Coast, West Coast and a central location. Until 2022, there was no company-wide standardization in the case-sealing materials used in its order fulfillment.
With case sealing, the stakes are higher in direct-to-consumer food shipments versus other areas of ecommerce because perishable food items need to be kept insulated for temperature control and because the condition of the tape is the tamper evidence.
“At Hungryroot, we started realizing our deliveries had a case sealing issue as tape would come off our boxes while in transit,” says Laura Kershaw, Hungryroot Packaging Engineer. “In an effort to create a better experience for our customers, we wanted to find a solution to standardize case sealing across our network.”
Kershaw and her team invited experts from their packaging tape partner to perform an audit at one of their facilities, which uncovered operational capacity Hungryroot could achieve based on factors like how often case sealing machines jammed and how often a box had to be removed from the line and hand taped because of a problem.
“The data from that test was good, and the fact that they offered continued support to address any issues on the packaging line was important to us,” explains Kershaw.
Consistently secure seals
Key to the partnership is an automated packaging system that combines high-performance packaging tape with an innovative tape application technology to deliver consistently secure seals, reduce material waste and less downtime. Rather than manually sealing each carton, Hungryroot operators now simply push a case through the automated applicator for a consistent, secure seal.
And because the cases are highly recycled, Kershaw’s team now uses a hot melt packaging tape specially formulated for manual and automated sealing of medium-weight, highly recycled cartons, particularly 100-percent recycled. They also moved from an industry standard 2-inch tape product to a more reliable 3-inch tape for added security.
Beyond reliable case-sealing products, however, it’s the ongoing service and on-call expertise that many e-commerce companies and direct fulfillment centers value in a packaging partnership.
“We like the support. If there is any issue on our packaging lines, we have direct support from both the manufacturer and the distributor of the tape,” says Kershaw. “In most cases, they’ll simply come out and fix it quickly. It’s very valuable to us as a business.”
“Tape is something that most customers — and even some of our operators — really don’t notice, unless it’s not working,” says Kershaw. “And then they’ll let you know it’s really not working.”
Since moving to its new partnership solution, Hungryroot has seen significant gains in its central and West Coast fulfillment centers, which experienced 55% and 26% reductions in customer complaints. Anecdotally, Kershaw also says her team is noticing operational efficiencies, with some operators spending less time re-taping boxes because of a problem with the case sealing.
But as a customer-focused company, Hungryroot rates customer feedback as the best barometer for packaging line success.
“More than anything else, the change was the right thing to do from a customer perspective — having customers receive boxes with tape coming off is not the experience we want to provide,” says Kershaw. “We’re grateful to have reliable tapes for our deliveries and an expert on call.”
About the Author
Bradley Dunlap is a senior product manager of packaging at Shurtape Technologies LLC. Learn more about case sealing solutions at www.shurtapetech.com