The online food delivery (OFD) sector has experienced consistent growth, with a projected CAGR of 12.6 percent over the next five years. By 2027, the OFD market is estimated to reach USD 1.65 trillion. Undoubtedly, the pandemic played a key role in fueling this growth, but it indirectly offered a glimpse into temporary improvements in air quality due to widescale lockdowns. During that period, we saw cleaner a atmosphere, which increased our appetite for sustainability. Consumers now demand cleaner delivery options, and to achieve this holistically, three fundamental pillars need to be considered:
Companies are increasingly embracing cleaner delivery services by transitioning to electric vehicles. However, the surge for on-demand deliveries has resulted in a higher number of vehicles on the roads, especially carbon-emitting ones, in congested urban areas. As a result, innovative solutions are emerging to mitigate these challenges and eliminate carbon emissions. Electric-powered vehicles prove suitable for small orders within a reasonable radius, while bicycles, e-bikes and walking are being employed by restaurants for local deliveries for short distances. As electric vehicles become more accessible and technology advances, they are poised to become the standard for deliveries, even across cities and long distances.
Restaurants must use eco-friendly packaging. Studies indicate that 54 percent of consumers prefer restaurants that minimize excess packaging in food delivery, while over 56 percent prefer establishments that use eco-friendly packaging without single-use plastic. Delivery apps have incorporated the option to remove cutlery to reduce their carbon footprint when users place an order. Restaurants are transitioning to biodegradable and sustainable packaging, including eco-friendly cutlery. By embracing the mass production and adoption of sustainable packaging, restaurants can significantly contribute to the sustainability culture.
Utilizing AI for food waste
Restaurants often underestimate the cumulative impact of food waste on the environment. Rotting food produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas that is 25 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. Shockingly, people waste a staggering 1.3 billion tons of food annually, equivalent to approximately a third of all the food we produce in a year worldwide. AI can play a vital role in reducing food waste by leveraging algorithms and historical data to predict common ingredients that are often wasted. AI can also optimize ingredient usage to minimize waste and foster more efficient inventory management.
Just with simple analytics and small changes, restaurant owners can mitigate the amount of food wasted and in turn, begin to observe patterns that lead to this behavior.
Undoubtedly, several challenges lie ahead. Implementing a culture that fosters sustainability on a global scale will prove complex and seemingly impossible. Sustainability is expensive, necessitating diligent efforts and commitment to spearhead this initiative and create a greener world for future generations.
Biodegradable packaging, e-vehicles for transportation and reducing food waste with AI are just some of the solutions.
With the surge of sustainable practices and Generation Alpha’s advocacy for green initiatives, online food delivery has the opportunity to play a significant role in reducing the F&B sector’s massive carbon footprint.