Cascades and Goodfood : partners in the sustainable delivery of fresh products

First impressions are usually impressions that matter the most in the e-commerce business.

And for a company that has welcomed over 280,000 Canadian households to its weekly grocery home delivery service in just six years of operation, it seems more than fitting that Goodfood Market Corp. makes extensive use of the insulated northbox® brand of corrugated shipping containers – produced by Cascades – as their mainstay delivery box to help keep the shipped groceries fresh and safe while also spreading the company’s brand across the country with catchy on-pack branding.

Canadian Packaging Magazine reached out to Cascades’ sales and business development representative Valerie Lachapelle to explain what makes the northbox so special.

Answers from Valerie Lachapelle, Sales Representative & Business Development

brown box to keep fresh fish fruits and vegetablesWhen did you start working with Goodfood as their packaging supplier? How did it come about?

We first met with Goodfood in 2014 and began working with them a year later, even before the company was named Goodfood. They were just starting the business and were looking for the most sustainable insulated packaging they could find. At that time northbox® didn’t exist; we only had the recyclable ThermaFresh® solution for the fish industry. We had just begun working on a design geared to the ready-to-cook market knowing this growing trend from Europe was just starting in America. We never expected this new industry to grow so quickly, but we were ready to face the challenge!

When did you start supplying northbox® to this client? How was it selected as the right box for their needs?

We were chosen for northbox® itself, a product that was rigid, clean, efficient and, most importantly, recyclable. Our Cascades Research and Development Centre had solid expertise in insulated packaging, and we had everything in place to replicate field testing in a lab chamber. We were also selected due to our proximity, level of service and dedication to work and evolve with them as a partner in this new market. We’ve created many alternatives geared to different situations (transit time, outside temperature, etc.), and many other innovations are to come very soon!

What are the key performance attributes that make northbox® the right packaging solution for their needs?

The first essential attribute was the way the insulation performed to obtain optimal freshness. The second key was sustainability. Cascades was the first in North America to offerinsulated paper-based recycled and recyclable packaging. They also liked the rigidity of the insulation, which makes the assembly process easier. Another important element for Goodfood was the manufacturing production site, as it was close to Montreal and their own facility and had the capacity to grow with them.

How many northbox® boxes do you supply Goodfood on a daily/weekly/monthly basis? What kinds of products/components do they typically put into the northbox®?

We serve Goodfood nationally for its entire ready-to-cook line. They use northbox® for all temperature-sensitive products, such as ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat meals and all refrigerated grocery items such as meat, cheese, kombucha and veggies.

What has been the client’s reaction/feedback regarding the performance of the northbox®?

They have been appreciating our northbox® for the last five years, and we have done a great deal of product development in order to evolve and adjust to their needs. We now offer different finishes and insulation thicknesses that can be tailored to the product placed inside, the season and delivery time frames.

What are some of the common challenges in E-com channels that northbox® must deal with, to stand and overcome?

The E-com food industry is growing and evolving rapidly. For us at Cascades, it means process adaptation, agility and ongoing product development. We need to stay close to our customers to identify future requirements. We are still evolving and working on developing the new products we offer in collaboration with our product development team.

What is the basic engineering/structural principles behind the northbox® construction? How does is significantly differ from other insulated carriers in the marketplace?

Our insulation technology, based on a recycled paperboard structure and a reflective lining, is part of what makes us different. The encapsulated metalized layer is 100% pulper-safe and means that all of the fibre can be recycled. The major difference with paper-based products is that it gives protection and stiffness to the box. The metalized finish makes it highly efficient and is food-contact approved and recyclable, so it can be placed directly in the recycling bin. In addition to supporting the circular economy, our manufacturing plants have earned Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) Chain of Custody certification.

With northbox®, customers can keep a consistent and custom packaging look and maintain freshness in any transit or environmental conditions.

How many size/variations are northbox® available in? How well is it suited for branding?

Our equipment allows us to have great flexibility in terms of dimensions and thickness. We are able to make custom-sized insulation. northbox® is made from honeycomb, and its composition gives protection and stiffness to the box. The box itself can also be branded with different colours. We love new challenges!

Where is the northbox® manufactured? How is it distributed across the country?

We are currently manufacturing northbox® in Canada and the Northeast and Midwest USA. northbox® is distributed coast to coast, all over North America.

Please describe your experience in working with Goodfood?

“Cascades is really proud to be collaborating with Goodfood. The team and the market are dynamic! From the beginning, we have had an exceptional relationship based on collaboration and dedication to them and we have supported them through all the challenging changes in this market. Our transparency and trust help both of us overcome the most difficult challenges that a fast-paced growth company can face. northbox® called on a number of different departments at Cascades: R&D (CS+), Sustainable Development, Marketing, Innovation, Sales and Cascades Recovery+. Together, we make sure that the product meets the high standards of the industry while aligning with Cascades' green DNA.” - Evelyne Lafontaine, Vice-President Marketing & Innovation of Specialty Products Group at Cascades