Courier DPD Ireland is spending €500,000 on an expansion into the food delivery business in a bid to tap into the potential growth offered by online grocery shopping.
DPD has added chilled and frozen storage at its newly-expanded facility in Athlone, Co Westmeath, whose systems connect directly with shippers' order management software and allow all deliveries to be tracked.
The company said that it has spent €500,000 on the food storage and order fulfilment facility. Gavin Warwick, DPD Ireland’s general manager logistics, explained that the main challenge facing suppliers is ensuring delivery within strict time limits to ensure freshness and quality.
He pointed out that the company’s system provides consumers with the exact hour of delivery and offers them the choice of having their food delivered to a neighbour or safe place if necessary.
"Food logistics and delivery in Ireland has enormous potential," Mr Warwick said. According to State food marketing agency Bord Bia, online grocery shopping in the Republic is worth €170 million a year.
DPD believes that this indicates that the market is still relatively underdeveloped as it represents just 1.2 per cent of overall sales. The figure is expected to hit 4.5 per cent by 2021.
UK trends show that online grocery shopping is the fastest-growing element of the business there.
A recent Institute of Grocery Distribution report predicted that online sales would increase by 68 per cent between 2016 and 2021.
DPD has recruited two health food specialists, Pow-Cow. com and Amazonia.organic, as customers of its new division.
Pow-Cow makes frozen yoghurt from Irish milk. Amazonia offers organic and fair trade food from South America.
Laura Arnold, Amazonia's territory manager for Ireland, said that quick delivery was important to maintaining the standards of the company's products.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny recently opened DPD's expanded facility at Athlone. The company has 38 depots throughout Ireland and delivers 11 million parcels here every year. Its parent handles four million parcels a day in Europe.