You may be used to seeing all of the food that you need on the shelves of the local supermarket or grocery shop. There is plenty of choice too as these days there is a huge variety of food items available to buy. Do you just take all of this for granted or have you ever thought about how the food gets to the shelf?


The truth is that there is a whole journey that food makes before it is placed on the shelf for you to buy. This journey often involves the use of distributors that act as a middleman. Let's look at how important this whole distribution & packaging process is.

How food gets to the supermarket shelf

If you go into a supermarket first thing in the morning you will see that all the shelves are fully stocked waiting for people to arrive. Of course, this shelf stacking does not just happen by magic. Supermarket employees work through the night, or early in the morning, to make sure that everything is in place. You will also notice that shelf stacking takes place throughout the day as products begin to sell.


This shelf stacking is the final step of a process which starts with food producers or drinks manufacturers. They create the product which then needs to be transported to the shelves of supermarkets and grocery shops.


In some cases, food producers take their products to the store or supermarket. This mostly happens in the case of artisan products. These are specialist products which supermarkets do not normally buy or sell in bulk.


On most occasions, the process of getting food products from the producer to the shelf involves the use of a distributor. Trucks and lorries belonging to these distributors can often be seen unloading items outside supermarket warehouses and premises.


In many cases, large supermarket chains have their own distribution centres. Food items are delivered to these distribution centres, mostly by independent contractors, where they are stored ready for distribution to individual branches. Packaging also often takes place at these distribution centres, in order to make sure that food items can be transported safely and remain fresh.

Why distributors are used by supermarkets and grocery shops

Distribution centres are a place where food items are stored in readiness for transportation to stores and supermarkets. This is the same whether the centre is owned by a particular supermarket chain or is independent.


There is a good reason why it makes sense for supermarkets and grocery shops to use distribution centres. The reason is that they need to have easy and timely access to the food items that they sell. Using a particular distribution centre, or a range of distribution centres for different products, means that they can continuously replace popular products and they can order in bulk. This helps to prevent supermarket shelves from remaining empty.


This is important to supermarkets and grocers because they do not want customers to be put off by a lack of available products to buy. If customers visit a store that often has empty shelf space they will probably take their business elsewhere.


There are some items which do not go through the distribution process. As mentioned earlier in this article, these are usually specialist items that come from local producers. There may be times when these items are not available in stores because of a lack of supply being provided by the producer. This is not as much of an issue for shops and supermarkets as these products tend not to be massive sellers that will result in a large loss of profit if they are not available.

In summary

It's easy to just assume that the food that you enjoy will always be available when you go to the supermarket. You probably do not think too much about how the food gets there; you are more concerned with simply completing your weekly shop.


Most of the time, products are consistently made available to customers. This happens because there is an efficient supply chain in place. Specialist food items are sometimes provided direct from the producer. However, on most occasions, food products are transported from the provider to distribution centres. They are then stored at the distribution centre waiting to be transported to stores and supermarkets. During this distribution process, products are packaged so that they remain fresh and protected, and so that they look appealing. The final stage of the process comes when shelf stackers at the supermarket place the items on the shelf for you to buy.