The e-commerce distribution cycle of food and beverage products is vastly different than the traditional distribution cycle for shipping directly to stores. Here, we break it down for you by using a jar of pasta sauce as an example.
Traditional Distribution Cycle (4 to 5 Touchpoints)
Jars of pasta sauce in a traditional distribution environment are going to get palletized after they’re sealed by the manufacturer. The entire pallet is then shipped to a grocery store or a distributor. If being sent to a distributor first, the pallet is broken down into smaller loads before it’s sent to multiple grocery stores and put on the shelves.
Typical E-Commerce Distribution Cycle (5+ Touchpoints)
The pallet of jars is taken off the manufacturing line and sent to an e-commerce warehouse. From there, the packages of pallets are broken down into individual jars. In the process of breaking down the pallet, it will go through a series of conveyors and handling equipment that are usually on angles. Because of this, the jar will undergo sudden, multiple drops.
The jars are then stored in the warehouse until someone buys a jar of pasta sauce (or two) online along with other purchases from A to Z (no pun intended) within a single order. Along with the jar or jars of pasta sauce, everything is shipped together through a package delivery service like UPS. The delivery service has its own distribution channels that the package goes through before it lands on the consumer’s front steps.
That’s a lot of traveling for a jar of pasta sauce!
Silgan Closures’ Drop-Test Process
Although there are several factors that can impact the stability of a food and beverage package, Silgan can test if the packaging is safe to ship and has the ability to withstand an e-commerce distribution cycle. E-commerce companies like Amazon offer best practices for shipment testing, but it’s not specific for food and beverage. For instance, if it’s a liquid package, Amazon suggests tipping the package on its side for 24 hours to check for leaks. But for food and beverage products, it’s not a sufficient test.
Food and beverage products come in a variety of different consistencies. Going back to the jar of pasta sauce, pasta sauce is thick, and if there’s a small leak, it’s not going to drip out during a simple test like tipping the jar on its side. Some packaging suppliers also work with outside labs to test packages before shipment, but they may not consider the many factors that can impact a food and beverage package during the distribution cycle.
In an effort to provide better packaging solutions for food and beverage products, Silgan Closures has developed methods to provide more sophisticated package analysis. We have the capability to test for potential issues that may arise during the distribution journey, like a loss of sealing, denting along the sidewall of a closure, or indications of a momentary breach of the seal which can cause packages to spoil.
Using the drop-test machine (see above), the package will undergo nine drops ranging from 18” to 36” on different faces of the package. Then, we put the package through vibration testing before doing eight more drops.
With this procedure, we’re able to deliver better package analysis specifically for closures. We use this data to provide our customers with our expert opinion on whether or not a package can successfully withstand a typical e-commerce distribution process.