Post-pandemic food delivery: Just Eat Takeaway talks e-commerce packaging future
12 Apr 2023 --- Food delivery rose to an all-time high during the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to be popular among consumers in the post-pandemic world, according to Jaz Rabadia, global head of responsible business and sustainability at Just Eat Takeaway.
Innova Market Insights found in 2022 that the COVID-19 pandemic influenced consumers’ home food delivery behavior. Twenty-two percent of global consumers say food delivery increased slightly and 14% indicated it had risen “greatly.”
Rabadia agrees with these findings and says that during the pandemic, there was a “huge” increase in demand for food delivery because of various lockdowns. “Society is now in a place where it continues to recover from the pandemic with people returning to the office and restaurants reopening.”
“Although the company saw a temporary lull in growth in 2022, Just Eat Takeaway is now twice the size it was pre-pandemic, after two years of exceptional growth – we believe the trend for online food delivery is here to stay,” she tells PackagingInsights.
However, Innova Market Insights also found that more than half of global consumers (58%) said they would return to normal grocery shopping habits post-pandemic.
Supporting restaurants with change
As a business, Just Eat Takeaway “wants to bring positive and sustainable change to the food delivery sector, and reducing the impact of plastic packaging is an important part of this,” asserts Rabadia.
Relatedly, Hong Kong advanced plans to ban all use of single-use plastic in restaurants and other service industry facilities. The ban was initially set to take place in 2025, but an increased public acceptance of non-plastic alternatives for disposable items has led legislators to bring the ban forward by two years to 2023.
The Environment and Ecology Bureau in Hong Kong proposed to enforce the ban in a paper submitted to the legislative committee in October last year. The first phase will occur at the end of 2023 and prohibit the sale and use of single-use plastic tableware at restaurants, while the second phase will eliminate takeaway containers in 2025.
“Even though the packaging our partners use is often out of our control, we recognize it is a key area we can support them with. We have adopted a proactive approach to tackle this challenge by focusing on two key strategies: identifying sustainable single-use alternatives and facilitating reusable packaging solutions,” she says.
Rabadia highlights that one example of the company’s sustainable packaging portfolio is its own branded packaging, free from plastic or bioplastic and screened against a list of harmful chemicals. “Only packaging that meets these requirements are included in our range and it is available for restaurant partners to purchase on our web shops across 16 markets.”
PPWD and takeaway
The company also works with packaging innovators to develop and test new plastic-free solutions, to offer sustainable packaging for all cuisine types. This includes Just Eat Takeaway’s partnership with Earthshot prize-winner Notpla, where the food delivery company rolled out seaweed-lined packaging to six European markets.
“The packaging is home compostable and recyclable, but even if it escapes the waste stream, it will naturally degrade in weeks, providing restaurants with a truly plastic- and PFAS-free packaging solution,” explains Rabadia.
The European Paper Packaging Alliance (EPPA) issued a plea last year for the European Commission (EC) to revise its position on reuse targets in its revisions of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD) last year. Ten percent of takeaway ready-prepared food packaging will have to be reusable by 2030 and 40% by 2040.
“We have developed a voluntary guide on sustainability that supports our restaurant partners in reducing their environmental impact. It contains recommendations from incorporating plant-based dishes on menus to sustainable sourcing, packaging and optimizing energy consumption. We’ve launched this in the UK with plans to roll it out to our other markets,” explains Rabadia.
Food delivery shifts
Last year, Just Eat for Business expanded its partnership with ClubZerø by implementing a returnable packaging system across London, UK, to tackle single-use waste originating from the foodservice packaging industry.
ClubZerø’s offering was designed to replace single-use packaging through a convenient returnable packaging scheme in London-wide corporate offices.
“Even though packaging is an indirect part of Just Eat Takeaway’s supply chain and often out of our control, it is our aim to reduce the use of plastic packaging in the food delivery sector and the use of all types of packaging overall. We work with sustainable packaging innovators on solutions that could be commercially viable and scalable,” a ClubZerø representative told PackagingInsights.
Rabadia highlights that in recent years, people have become more aware of the impact plastic packaging has on the world. “Our wider network is no exception and we believe that both our customers and partners recognize the growing concern and environmental impact of packaging in food delivery. In addition, we also know that with the rise of legislation in this space across the EU, restaurants now need to shift away from single-use plastic packaging.”
Innova Market Insights also found that 31% of global consumers registered increased packaging waste due to home-delivered products during the pandemic.
As a material, plastic has been around for centuries, and finding credible alternatives can take time. “We know that there are still challenges in the sector and there is still a way to go in finding credible alternatives for a variety of different cuisine types such as Indian or Chinese food,” asserts Rabadia.
“However, we also know the market is responding to the need for more eco-friendly options and we’ve seen a huge increase in different types of sustainable solutions, from home compostables to reusable solutions, which is fantastic,” she concludes.
By Natalie Schwertheim
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