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The Logistics of Meal Kits

Logistical execution of direct-to-consumer meals is a whole other animal — or, in today's case, fruits and vegetables. It’s one thing to get an item from point A to point B in a timely and efficient manner, but it’s a brand new ball game when you introduce food safety and food quality into the mix. That’s when you need a real pro.

Enter Wesley Williams, Senior Director of Logistics at Daily Harvest. Wesley joined the latest episode of What’s Up Dock? To share all the ins and outs of the struggles that come with the meal kit logistics. From choosing partners you can trust to daily problem-solving to shipping food cold — but not too cold — Wesley tells all.

Join us as we discuss:

  • How Wesley ended up in the food logistics space
  • What qualities you should be looking for in a vendor
  • The greatest hurdles around quality assurance for shipping food

Wesley’s journey into the food logistics industry

Food logistics wasn’t a space that Wesley dreamed about as a child. In fact, it wasn’t an industry he intended to land in at all. Yet, his unconventional experience placed him in a position in which he helped to build influential systems that would build the infrastructure behind produce and meal kit delivery today.

Wesley began his journey in logistics at Coyote Logistics in the transportation brokerage space. Starting with little to no logistics expertise, Wesley quickly grew to be an integral part of the team, eventually branching to new opportunities across different organizations such as HelloFresh and Riggo.

During his time in New York, Wesley was approached with a proposition — the US was a $9 billion transportation logistics space that had barely been explored. Wesley was asked to help build a business from the ground-up to start exploring.

This partnership marked the beginning of Wesley’s role as a CEO in the food transportation logistics space.

Vendor qualities to look for

When you function within an industry that requires a high level of quality and control, partnering with the right vendors is essential for success. At Daily Harvest, these vendor relationships are a major focus of daily operations.

So how do you find vendors that are right for your company?

Wesley says it has a lot to do with alignment.

He says, “We ask ourselves, is this a company we want to align ourselves with because they believe in the standard of quality of the product? Do they align with our brand?”

Beyond establishing alignment, there are several other factors to consider. For example, Daily Harvest assesses the products themselves, the systems and operations in which the vendors' function, pesticide and growing practices and more. 

Without safety, alignment, clarity and value it is very difficult, if not impossible, to build a cohesive, mutually beneficial relationship.

The greatest hurdles around quality assurance for shipping food

Food delivery services and meal kits offer simplicity and convenience to customers. But the operations behind them — the nitty gritty behind getting food from the field to your door — is quite complex.

Navigating these complexities is possibly the biggest challenge in shipping food.

First, there are very specific timeframes and environments in which perishable food needs to be handled and delivered in order to ensure that it’s fresh and up to high-quality standards. This requires myriad organizational skills and logistics.

“There really isn't the infrastructure to support perishable direct-to-consumer shipping,” Wesley says. “We have to decide: What is the right insulation? And what is the degradation of temperature quality in that shipment over time? How quickly does that temperature actually hold?”

Different products and commodities will also require different packaging and shipping approaches — something that can be particularly difficult with mixed-product deliveries like meal kits and grocery orders.

Temperature and climate also come into play with food delivery. In warmer climates, food may be exposed to elements that require greater care in packaging and insulation.

“It's a matter of prioritizing the things that are in our control today, that we can impact,” Wesley says. “ As we navigate our findings, we will learn and find solutions for future problems.” 

Keep connected with us by subscribing on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere you get podcasts. Find all the episodes here.

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