DHL Worldwide Express plans to introduce a food packaging delivery container in Asia. The 'FreshFirst' service is a container which will allow exporters of perishable foods to deliver goods quickly via regular DHL air routes. It was introduced in Australia last month where it will be tested before the containers are offered to exporters in Asia. Australian companies currently can export products such as meat and fish overnight to Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, South Africa and New Zealand. DHL also sees great potential for using the product in connection with the pharmaceutical and medical industries. The container took 18 months to develop and consists of a series of multi- layered cardboard boxes with a bio-degradable freeze film which helps to maintain the desired temperature. If an exporter put meat chilled at four degrees Celsius into the 530 millimetres x 310 mm x 190 mm container, the box would maintain that temperature for about 50 hours. Charles Longley, DHL chief executive officer for Asia-Pacific/Middle East, said the boxes could be re-used, but the company would not encourage the practice as the materials were absorbent and repeat use may lead to contamination. He said the FreshFirst service eliminated any unnecessary handling, reduced the risk of delay or delivery error and cut down the user's end costs. Containers cost A$10 (about HK$46) plus delivery charges. 'We introduced this product because we saw a market opportunity to improve on how perishable goods were traditionally delivered. It allows the exporter to target customers specifically and effectively and do direct distribution and business with them,' Mr Longley said. 'A five-star restaurant in Asia can place its order electronically to the exporter and it will be put into the DHL system just like any other package. It will be delivered to the end user directly in a short period of time.' During DHL's initial research into the viability of such a product, the company found that customers wanted smaller-sized shipments delivered more frequently. The standard practice for international delivery of perishable goods is to go from an exporter to an importer, through customs and a distributor before reaching the receiver. 'The importer can feel secure knowing that his shipments are passed directly through customs and involve fewer handling steps. 'The exporter will be able to negotiate a singular pricing structure direct with his end customer, increase his service level multi-fold and enjoy cost savings by not having to invest in a logistics network at either end of the process flow,' Mr Longley said. 'The beauty of the FreshFirst service is that a delivery goes through fewer hands. It is simply another package which does not require any special handling.' Mr Longley said DHL had enjoyed significant success over the past few years using packaging to increase business. The hugely successful campaign involving the Jumbo Box (25 kilograms) was conceived in Australia before being launched in Asia. DHL had also spawned the Jumbo Junior for packages under 10 kg. 'The same team which designed the Jumbo Box created FreshFirst in Sydney. There was a niche market for perishables out of Australia that needed to be filled and that essentially facilitates business.'