In this piece, Picup Customer Success Manager Bunna Booyens discusses the growing popularity of meal kit and the logistics behind it.

Meal kit delivery services have become a popular choice, especially since shopping became an inconvenience during lockdown. With the rapid advances in tech, it seems that almost any service can now be carried out online with minimal human interaction.

Meal kit services may be the easiest way to get food on the table, but the supply chain behind this business model is complex and time-pressured. One of the biggest contributors to this success is a smart, professional logistics company that provides seamless timely deliveries.

Meal kits were designed to allow customers all the fun and creativity of cooking at home without the time spent grocery shopping or effort cleaning up afterwards. Most companies offering this service work on a subscription basis, sending regular boxes of pre-portioned ingredients with recipe instructions direct to a customer’s door for a set price per month.

Competing with tradition grocery stores

In the US and UK where meal kits have become a part of daily life, many customers want the option of purchasing meal kits directly from a grocery store. To avoid being bought out by major grocery chains, as well as compete in an increasingly saturated market, private meal kit companies have been forced to ramp up their convenience which almost exclusively comes down to logistics.

When thinking about convenience, one thinks about the customer experience. Not only is there the concern of fresh produce staying refrigerated to avoid spoilage of the specially sourced ingredients, but delivering within a customer’s given window of convenience can prove a challenge. Unforeseen circumstances such as traffic congestion, weather conditions and vehicle issues can delay the delivery process.

A major component to keeping customers happy is managing customers’ expectations. This puts the customer at the forefront of convenience-innovations, and keeps them informed throughout their delivery journey by means of omni-channel notifications as well as live tracking technology.


Although last mile delivery adds a great convenience factor for customers, it also poses a huge threat on budget and profit margin constraints. There is a fine balance between price and service. Unlike non-perishable stock that can be loaded for delivery and be held in the delivery vehicle for long periods of time, drivers delivering meal kits are only able to a restricted number of packages to be delivered within a predefined area.

This automatically leads to increased fuel costs, fewer deliveries per driver daily, as well as standard costs such idling and maintenance.

Logistics software

This is where an on-ground problem necessitates a virtual solution, this time in the form of delivery optimisation and fleet management software. Logistics software like Picup is designed to reduce the overall costs and improve efficiency associated with delivery.

Picup’s Enterprise solution helps streamline the entire logistics and last-mile delivery process, where one has the option of leveraging Picup’s independent driver fleet, a third party courier or one’s own in-house drivers using Picup’s Transport Management System (TMS).


Due to the flexibility demanded by meal kit customers, route planning is essential in optimising the last mile delivery process. The software enables customers to incorporate real time orders into the existing delivery schedule.

The fleet management integration also automates the assigning of packages to available drivers, reducing the delay between a customer ordering and an order leaving the warehouse. As each new order is processed and assigned, existing driver routes are also updated to accommodate the new delivery without disrupting the previously scheduled deliveries.

Locally, Picup’s software enables UCOOK to integrate directly with Picup to pass over all delivery related information. Routes are then optimised using the Picup technology, and information passed back to UCOOK for dispatch planning. Customers receive automated notifications to track and plan for receiving orders.

The optimisation phase puts all the control into the hands of the client, and allows clients to define the delivery window, the size of vehicle used, the number of parcels per vehicle, which all influences the cost per delivery.

Fleet management

Another bonus of a logistics software system is that companies are able to have a birds-eye view of their entire fleet, including available drivers as well as orders out on delivery. This overview allows for any potential delivery delays or issues to be intercepted before they reach fruition, and enables on-site management to contact on-ground staff should they need to.

Dispatch planning

By automating the logistics process, incidence of human error is reduced across the board. Ultimately this leads to fewer rescheduling incidents and fewer order cancellations. On-demand dispatch software also helps to allocate deliveries to drivers based on their experience, vehicle type, geographical awareness and driving skills.

All of these rankings reduce the risk of drivers getting lost, being overstocked and unable to complete deliveries, or causing any other inconvenience to the customer. Overall these scores can help to aid human resources decisions through deviation from certain points of standard.

Contactless receipt confirmation

Touch-free delivery has also become a game changer in the delivery game. Not only does this help conserve social distancing measures, it also allows drivers to log their delivery virtually once completed instead of using hardcopy signatures that could be lost, damaged or inaccurate.

Taste the success

UCOOK, South Africa’s largest online meal kit provider, has scaled from 24 meals in its first delivery five years ago, to thousands every week now. Its focus on sustainably sourced local ingredients, optimising the customer experience and encouraging South Africans to get back in the kitchen makes it a beacon for the future of how we conceptualise, interact with and experience food in the digital age.

Picup has worked closely with the UCOOK team, discussing the ins and outs of produce delivery to preserve freshness, while still offering customers a fast, convenient service from first to last mile. Picup’s reliable tech, responsive support and crowdsourced fleet have allowed UCOOK to scale without the teething problems one would generally experience when using traditional carriers.

Picup is pleased to be working within this burgeoning industry and are excited to continue optimising the behind the scenes logistics processes and automation systems to provide the most effective delivery solutions and best possible customer experience for its clients.