As you no doubt know, the last year has profoundly changed shopping habits . The health emergency caused by the spread of COVID-19 has changed our daily habits and limited our possibilities of travel , and activities that were once common and taken for granted, such as shopping at the supermarket , have had to evolve together . to the new routines. In this sense, selling food products online has proved to be a winning choice for both large retailers and small retailers, who have found in digital an effective response to the physical limitations caused by lockdowns and red zones.

Even before the pandemic, however, there were more and more companies that had already aimed at e-commerce to offer their food products . This choice is linked to the fact of being able to reach a much wider audience than that which is possible to involve with a traditional territorial activity, and it is extremely effective especially for those who propose particular products, which encounter a much wider and transversal request .

Virtually any business dealing with food and wine products can consider selling online . What is important is knowing how to do it in the right way , especially taking into account the typical regulations of the food industry (diversified and stringent) which could almost certainly require the advice of specialized technicians or experts .

In this small guide, we propose what we believe are the most effective strategies and rules to operate at your best.

What legislation for the online sale of food products?

As regards the regulatory references relating to the digital sale of food and wine products , those that will be essential to take into account are mainly three: the European Regulation 1169/2011 / EU , for indications on labeling; Legislative Decree 114/1998 and its integration into Legislative Decree 59/2010 as regards the requirements of the manager of the e-commerce channel; and Legislative Decree 70/2003 to find out about the obligations required for the online commerce sector.   

We advise you to read them with the utmost care: it will help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of your proposal and correct any non-compliances that you had not considered up to now.

Pay attention to food labeling and user information

Another crucial issue that you will need to take the utmost care of is the labeling of the food products you will be selling in your online store . In fact, remember that the consumer has the right to receive all the information on the product, and that you have a duty to provide it to him in a clear, precise and transparent way.

The data on the label must include the following:

  • List of ingredients contained and used for the production of the food
  • Possible allergens
  • Duration and expiry of the product
  • Consistency of the product (liquid, powder, frozen) and indications for its conservation (fridge, freezer, room temperature)
  • Type of vegetable oils or fats used for production
  • Origin of the food
  • Nutritional information relating to 100 g / ml and energy value
  • Any information regarding the consumption of the product

Finally, keep in mind that your consumer must also be clearly educated on your sales policies , on the right of return / withdrawal and refund , on the methods of payment and delivery (home delivery, in-store pick-up, etc.) and on any other indication that may affect your decision to purchase your products or not.

Shipping: fresh or non-perishable products?

As far as the shipment of your food products is concerned, the crux of the matter concerns their  freshness and possible perishability during the transport and delivery phase .

Especially if you intend to sell fresh food online , you will need to know in detail the principles and rules that govern this important step in digital commerce.

Typically, the category of fresh (and therefore perishable ) products correspond to products such as cured meats, dairy products, frozen foods, gastronomic preparations from the fridge, fruit, vegetables and so on. Non -perishable products include pasta, rice, legumes, flours, etc.

For the latter, the service of a traditional courier will be sufficient, but always in full compliance with the hygienic-sanitary indications relating to the country of delivery.

For the shipment of fresh food , however, you will necessarily have to contact a courier who provides this explicit service, normally provided with special isothermal vehicles that ensure accurate control and maintenance of the temperature throughout the journey. In this case you will have to refer to the most suitable transport class for your products :

  • A , for media that maintain a temperature between 12 ° C and 0 ° C
  • B , which foresees temperatures between + 12 ° C and –10 ° C;
  • C , for temperatures between + 12 ° C and –20 ° C

The importance of packaging

Packaging also plays a fundamental role in the online sale of food products . You will therefore have to get boxes and packages that are perfectly suited to the size of the products you intend to ship, which should always be wrapped in bubble wrap so as to avoid unpleasant damage and breakages during transport.

Regarding fresh food , regardless of the transport phase thermally controlled by the courier, you will still have to worry about vacuum packing them and covering them with dry ice , so as to maintain the ideal temperature and avoid mold and decay. In this sense, there are extremely functional polystyrene boxes from which you could benefit greatly.

Finally, do not forget to put the correct words on the box , indicating if its contents are fragile or fresh .

What about the digital marketing part?

Now that we have provided you with some information regarding the practical management methods for the online sale of food products , we want to show you some suggestions regarding the creation and promotion of your e-commerce .

In fact, keep in mind that the online purchase method is now rapidly climbing the rating rankings and that more and more consumers use the network to buy any kind of product or service .

Shopping , as we pointed out at the beginning of this article, has now become an activity that is easy to do from the armchair at home . This means that your online food store will have to stand out from an increasing number of competitors, and that it will therefore have to follow a very specific strategy .

For starters, find your niche

The first thing we suggest you do is identify the market niche in which to position yourself , both with respect to your products and the type of user you intend to target.

Focus on one or two products that can differentiate you from the competitors’ offer and, subsequently and depending on the results achieved, expand your proposal with concentric rays , always keeping in mind what is the foundation of your business and what your consumers expect from. both in terms of products and business philosophy / ethics.

To have more guarantees on how to proceed, we recommend that you invest a part of your budget in market research , so as to test the actual feasibility of your idea : is there room for the product you want to launch? What is your audience of consumers? How can you differentiate your offering?

These are all questions that, given in hand, will be easier to answer and that will allow you to study a sales strategy with greater chances of success.

It also evaluates the various market trends and identifies what could also host your products: at the present time, the trends favor organic, GOP, ethnic foods, with particular restrictions (gluten-free, lactose, allergens, etc.), coming from fair trade, vegetarians, vegans, locally produced or artisanal and so on.

Which category do yours belong to?

Choose your web platform

As for the actual sales tool , that is your e-commerce platform , you can refer to our guide on the main ones available to you, however keeping in mind the importance of contacting professionals in the sector who will support you in creating the site. , both in terms of graphics, content and user experience.

Your online store is, in fact, a virtual version of the real point of sale and must therefore be studied in every detail , starting from the branding to the institutional colors , from the tone of voice of the texts to the choice of images .

The primary objective of the site will not only be to propose products , but also to simplify and make the purchase process pleasant for the consumer , providing information in a clear and immediate way, with the ultimate aim of not diverting potentially interested users elsewhere.

In addition to the technical part of placing in the cart, check-out and payments , a good e-commerce system will also be able to support you in sending personalized e-mails and tracking codes , as well as in proposing similar and recommended products , offers . , discount codes and promotions .

Support your e-commerce with the right digital marketing strategy

Social networks, video-recipes, e-mail marketing, paid ADV on Facebook, Instagram or Google are just some of the many tools that digital marketing puts at your disposal today to help you communicate your food and wine offer to an increasingly wider audience.

Again, the support of a team specialized in digital strategies will help you differentiate yourself in your market niche and manage it correctly, favoring visits to your e-commerce site, your brand reputation and the awareness of your brand with respect to the your target audience.

In this sense, NAXA’s experts are always at your disposal to develop a complete and multi-channel digital plan , which transforms your online store into a successful, innovative and original business for buyers.