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Food fulfillment is a discipline on its own

Food distribution is crucial in our food supply chain. It not only bridges gaps between producers and consumers but also connects producers with business clients. These clients include wholesalers, retailers, or Horeca sectors. Moreover, e-fulfillment represents a recent development in this domain. It specifically focuses on fulfilling food and beverages for e-commerce, encompassing services to consumers (B2C) and businesses (B2B). Consequently, food and beverage products present unique needs, necessitating fulfillment providers to develop industry-specific solutions.

Choosing the right fulfillment provider is essential, particularly for e-commerce food businesses and brands. Their needs and operations often diverge significantly from more traditional counterparts. For instance, e-commerce-first companies typically market to both consumers and businesses. However, most fulfillment providers tend to specialize in catering to either one or the other.

This article delves into the exploration of fulfillment providers for e-commerce food businesses, covering both brands and producers.

Are you looking for advice about the e-commerce operations of your food and beverage business?  Contact us to learn more and get a free initial consultation

Choosing Between Parcels or Pallets: What’s Best for Your Business?

The Diverse Logistics Landscape in the Netherlands

The Netherlands’ logistics sector is varied, featuring giants like DHL and DPD, and smaller firms. Services cater to different goods, from parcels to pallets, each with unique advantages.

Understanding Parcel and Pallet Logistics

For e-commerce in food and beverage, knowing the difference between parcel and pallet logistics is key. Companies offer varied services, automation levels, and integration with e-commerce.

Navigating the Complexities of Logistics Pricing

Pricing is complex, varying by volume, frequency, size, and item composition among other factors.

Differentiating Between 3PLs and Fulfillment Centers

There are two main types: third-party logistics (3PL) companies and fulfillment centers. 3PLs offer extensive logistics services, including transportation and warehousing. Fulfillment centers focus on order processing and delivery.

Specialization and Efficiency in Logistics

3PLs operate broadly, while fulfillment centers are hyper-specialized. This specialization can lead to faster operations and scalability for e-commerce businesses.

Choosing the Right Logistics Partner for Your Business

3PLs often cater to B2B clients with pallets or half-pallets. Fulfillment centers typically handle parcels up to 25kg, ideal for consumer deliveries. Yet, innovative providers can serve both markets effectively.

Unique Challenges in Food Logistics

If you are not already confused by now, brace yourself because it might get even more nuanced. When it comes to the storage handling, and delivery of food and beverage products, things can get even more complicated. 

Differentiating food logistics from other goods logistics hinges on several factors:

  • Product Perishability: Food items differ from most consumer goods. These goods include Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCGs) or Consumer Packaged Goods (CPGs). Unlike these shelf-stable items, food products such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meat are perishable. They need quick and controlled transportation. This prevents spoilage.
  • Temperature Control: Maintaining optimal temperatures is crucial during transportation and storage to ensure food safety and quality. This necessitates advanced cooling and storage facilities
  • Routing Efficiency: Well-planned routes are essential to minimize delays and ensure timely delivery, especially for perishable goods.
  • Beverage Handling: Beverages need careful storage, handling, and transportation. This prevents damage. If not managed properly, damage can lead to significant costs for the brand.

The food industry needs very frequent deliveries. It requires short times between ordering and receiving products. Delivery must cover early hours or weekends. This ensures consumers don’t go hungry. Logistic providers must offer reliable last-mile delivery, especially to urban areas. This combines challenges like narrow streets, traffic, and emission limits. They must also provide good customer service, predictable delivery, and proper storage.

Finding the Right Fulfillment Solution for Your Food Business

Identifying the ideal logistics solution for your e-commerce food business can be complex, given the numerous factors at play. The search for a reliable logistics partner often entails extensive research, as the available online information is typically fragmented. Many food entrepreneurs find themselves navigating a trial-and-error process or seeking referrals to make informed decisions.

Our objective is to demystify the logistics landscape for food businesses in the Netherlands. To this end, we have curated a list of top-notch logistics companies by meticulously reviewing over 50 providers. Our evaluation included online data analysis and customer reviews. We also interacted with seasoned food entrepreneurs. This spares you the effort of exploring myriad options.

Do you want to discuss the e-commerce needs of your food business? Atrium works with many successful brands to streamline their e-commerce operations and automate repetitive processes. Contact us to learn more and get a free initial consultation.

Best Fulfillment provider for food businesses

Monta

Monta Fulfilment is based in Zuid Holland. It specializes in fulfillment services. These services cater to both B2C and B2B deliveries. They focus particularly on the food and beverage sector. They can offer room-temperature and controlled-temperature storage and transportation, with a range of delivery across the Netherlands and Europe-wide

Pros

We appreciate this company’s technological advancement. It assures integrations with various e-commerce platforms. These include marketplaces like Bol and Amazon. It also integrates with channel managers such as ChannelEngine and ERPs like Exact Online or AFAS.

The company offers full inventory management. They have their own client interface. This interface provides full transparency about stock levels, order status, and inbound status.

Cons

Being a fulfillment specialist, the transportation is performed by a wide range of delivery partners. This could offer advantages in coverage and shipping options. However, it might affect the quality of customer care and increase costs.

Best 3PL provider for food businesses

Koninklijke Oostberg

Koninklijke Oostberg is a group of companies. They specialize in logistic services as a 3PL provider. They serve both B2C and B2B deliveries. Their main distribution center is in Apeldoorn. From there, they offer a full range of fulfillment services. These services cater to online and offline merchants. Offerings include robot picking and serviced warehousing. They also provide inventory management. This comes with a real-time overview of processing and stock levels. On top of that, they also have over 20 locations across the country for cross-docking and a more capillary reach. They can also deliver across the country with their own fleet, which is partially electric, especially for last-mile deliveries.

Pros

The company can handle parcels or pallets seamlessly. It uses advanced technologies for its processes. The company is also committed to sustainability. They have centralized their main distribution and fulfillment center in one warehouse. This centralization allows them to invest in automation, like robot picking. It also supports their sustainability efforts. For instance, their facility’s rooftop is fully covered with solar panels. They have invested in a fleet of electric vehicles as well. This is a promising endeavor. It aligns with the values of most food entrepreneurs. They also have integrations with most of the popular e-commerce stacks and marketplaces. 

Cons

They are a generalist logistic provider. They work best with food entrepreneurs who have shelf-stable products. However, they can’t handle fresh or temperature-controlled storage or transportation.

Best fulfillment provider for food e-commerce- and B2B-commerce-first businesses

PostNL

Not many people know it, but PostNL is actively investing in its logistic services for food producers, brands, and growing e-commerce food businesses. PostNL is particularly focused on food brands that sell directly to their customers, being consumers and the long-tail of businesses, from retail to Horeca, as opposed to companies selling mainly to wholesalers. Their unique positioning and reach both nationally and internationally make them the ideal partner for scale-ups and businesses that want a more direct connection with their customers and that use webshops or other forms of online ordering solutions.

Pros

PostNL needs no introduction but their growth in the food industry has gone under the radar so far. What we didn’t know is that they are able to offer both B2C and B2B deliveries (from parcels to pallets) not only of shelf-stable products but also for perishable ones. Both their transportation and storage systems can offer temperature-controlled environments to meet clients’ needs and their expertise in consumer logistics makes them the perfect match for companies that want to have a direct relationship with their customers. They can truly serve customers in any corner of the country and can also bring your products all across Europe. They are also investing in innovation and sustainability: it should come as no surprise that an increasing number of food brands choose them over other smaller 3PLs. 

Cons

While they claim to be able to serve orders from multiple channels like e-commerce and marketplaces, we weren’t able to verify which e-commerce stacks and marketplaces they can currently seamlessly integrate with. 

Best last-mile provider

FoodLogica

If you are looking for an electric-first, last-mile delivery provider in the main urban areas of the Randstad, look no further. The Amsterdam-based scale-up is a specialist in the cross-docking and transportation of food and beverage orders to consumers and businesses alike. The company’s fleet has a mix of electrified vehicles, from vans to bikes, which can take your perishable and non-perishable food products to any alley of the main Dutch cities. The company 

Pros

The fleet is tailored for busy urban areas and its electric fleet will have unrestricted access to the city centers even after the strictest emission limits are implemented as of 2025. FoodLogica is at the forefront of this and we expect many other providers will rely on them going forward. 

Cons

Their operations are mainly suited for the last mile and for small e-commerce providers selling to both businesses and consumers in the main Dutch cities: this limits the range of services they can offer. They don’t provide inventory management but rather cross-docking, don’t have integrations with e-commerce stacks or marketplaces, and their shipment capability is limited. They make a great partner for other logistic providers or very localized food and beverage brands, but less so for national and fast-scaling businesses. 

Best sustainable provider for food companies

Hubbel

Thanks to its full-fledged offering, this new 3PL provider has made some waves in the market. Hubbel offers one of the most unique and relevant offerings in the landscape of food logistics, being one of the first providers to specifically offer Hub-to-Hub cross docking and delivery aggregation for (business) customers receiving orders from multiple suppliers. This is ideal for Horeca businesses who are not satisfied with standard wholesaler catalogs and want to source unique or local products from smaller brands and producers. Hubble enables these businesses to receive all supplies at their closest hub and get them delivered at once to the doorstep. They also offer storage, fulfillment, and transportation services to brands and producers, both refrigerated and non. 

Pros

Their hubs are strategically located around main Dutch urban areas and their offering is really in sync with the evolving needs of Horeca businesses and emerging food brands alike. Their fleet is also electric-first, which will only make their appeal grow as new emission limits close the centers of cities off to diesel and benzing vans. Overall, we find their positioning unique in the landscape and extremely modern. 

Cons

Like all newer companies, their scope of operations cannot compete with more established businesses, as their core focus is cities in the Randstad. This makes it a great choice for both food buyers and sellers who are looking for a direct, recurring relationship, without the reliance on traditional wholesalers, but less for brands with a focus on consumer sales. We were also not able to verify whether they can offer integrations with e-commerce stacks or marketplaces, which confirms they are most likely better suited for B2B transactions. 

Conclusion: Streamlining Your Food Logistics in the Netherlands

Navigating the vast and intricate world of food logistics in the Netherlands can be challenging, especially with the unique demands of temperature-controlled food distribution. By understanding the distinctions between fulfillment and 3PL providers, and by choosing the right partner tailored to your business needs, you can significantly enhance your operational efficiency. Whether you prioritize sustainability, e-commerce integration, or last-mile delivery, there’s a solution out there for every e-commerce-first food brand. 

Do you want to work with any of these providers? Atrium is directly integrated with all of them, offering you a streamlined logistics solution for your food business. Contact us to learn more and get a free initial consultation.
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