Innovation // Trusted Partner

E-commerce: The Trend We’ve Spent Years Preparing For

March 01, 2021

The global food supply chain is built to follow patterns in consumer demand. When COVID-19 hit last year, these patterns were disrupted and the supply chain was forced to react to unanticipated events like grocery store surges and restaurant slowdowns. Recently, in his 2021 outlook, our President and CEO, Greg Lehmkuhl, pointed out that while many of the consumer behavior shifts we saw last year were temporary, there is one that is here to stay – and it’s one Lineage is strategically prepared to handle: grocery e-commerce.

When e-commerce accelerated, it accelerated quickly.

The onset of the coronavirus pandemic brought with it an 80% surge in the number of consumers buying their groceries online[1], as food buyers looked to curbside pickups, contactless payments and expanded home delivery to keep themselves safe. Now, after trying it, many consumers have made it part of their regular shopping habits. So much so, that in the past 12 months, consumer acceptance of grocery e-commerce has hit numbers that many predicted would take up to five years to achieve. 

According to Whitney Wilcox, Lineage Vice President of Business Development, now that we’ve seen this acceleration, “Everyone is looking for that e-commerce solve. And temperature introduces a whole new element. But with our resources and flexibility at Lineage, customers can bring us their problems, and we’ll use our innovation, network, transportation capabilities and engineers to find a solution. We are set up to handle these scenarios.”

The vision to put our customers ahead.

From a capacity standpoint, Lineage is building, expanding and acquiring facilities in strategically located, rapid-growth population centers. This keeps products closer to consumers and ensures there is always enough available inventory to quickly satisfy demand. Especially important in a world where delivery of online grocery orders has become a 30-minutes-or-less deal. Wilcox continues, “We can enable customers behind the scenes. Lineage has a very large network, so if we are able to do it in one market, we can replicate a service in another market.”

Supporting this capacity is our industry-leading innovation. Sudarsan Thattai, Lineage Chief Information Officer, says, “Technology will facilitate a demand for e-commerce that is growing faster than expected. We recognized the trends early and have seen how innovations like automation can deliver results in speed and efficiency.” Automating warehouse functions allows products to be stored, sorted and shipped more nimbly than ever before, all within a smaller footprint, so we can help get our customers’ products to people as soon as they click “Order.”

Supporting customers in entirely new ways.

“One of the things that separates Lineage is that customers can look to us as a resource,” says Tim Blazek, our Vice President of Business Development. “As we go from pallet picking to case picking to each picking, our infrastructure is superior as far as visibility and inventory management. We can seamlessly help customers bring the retail experience to a consumer’s doorstep.”

And while new software such as LineageLink® will integrate every step of the process, having partners you can depend on will become even more important as products go right from warehouses to consumers. According to Blazek, another area where Lineage stands out is its attention to customer relationships. “Lineage lives up to its commitments in both words and actions – we have a personal investment in our customers’ businesses.” 

The ride has just begun.

At Lineage, it’s our job to anticipate and stay ahead of consumer trends for our customers and provide them with the resources, solutions and services to thrive and grow, no matter what the market brings.

With recent predictions that by 2024 nearly 70% of consumers[2] will be online grocery shoppers, we’re already thinking about what’s next. While instantaneous shifts in consumer demand and behavior may have initially shocked our industry last year, Lineage’s investment in infrastructure and innovation allowed us to support our customers in uncertain times – and our stage is set for success, whatever the future looks like.