Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods

The Rise of E-Commerce Patents in Food Delivery

With Amazon set to acquire Whole Foods in the second half of this year, the e-commerce industry gains another foothold in the world of retail, specifically in the market of grocery and food delivery.

Amazon’s big moves in food delivery

This recent Amazon M&A deal follows a steady increase in the company’s activity in the food industry. Amazon has provided grocery delivery to select markets since 2008 via its AmazonFresh feature. Amazon Fresh allows Amazon Prime users in large metropolitan markets such as Seattle and New York City to order everything from gluten-free flour mixes to local produce. In 2015, Amazon announced that it would begin delivering restaurant food to over 20 US cities via its Amazon Restaurants feature. Amazon Restaurants goes head-to-head with restaurant delivery services like Grubhub and Postmates. The company entered the self-prep meal delivery service industry as well, partnering with Tyson Foods in 2016. Here Amazon competes in the popular new market with leaders such as Blue Apron and Plated. Now, with Whole Foods as a subsidiary, Amazon will likely look to increase its presence in the grocery and food delivery markets, expanding its delivery offerings to more regions across the country.

Food delivery market analysis

This is not a new trend in the realm of e-commerce, however. Alibaba, the Hangzhou-based e-commerce corporation, has invested in two Chinese supermarkets and the food delivery business Ele.me in order to expand their food delivery offerings. With traditional retailers and restaurants alike facing an exodus of consumers (largely believed to be millennials) who prefer to purchase via web-based platforms, Amazon moves to serve a growing demand for grocery and food delivery.

Looking at recently granted e-commerce patents reinforces the position that food delivery will continue to be a growing market. In 2017 alone, dozens of e-commerce inventions in food delivery have been granted patents around the world. It is no surprise that the US and China have produced the majority of these patents.

The patents range from refrigeration methods for food home deliveries to web-based apps that allow users to order food online and track their purchases. Chinese inventors have patented robotic food delivery machines, fitting with the trend in automation innovation. Amazon, Alibaba, and other e-commerce retailers are investing in traditional brick-and-mortar grocery stores to enable their expansion of food delivery options. If a consumer tries a food item in-store and wants to buy it again, he or she can simply order it online and expect a home delivery within the day. By investing in innovative food delivery patents, these e-commerce retailers assure that their food deliveries stay fresh and palatable.

Food delivery patent activity by country

chart showing food delivery patent numbers by country

Source: ktMINE Search “food delivery system”- 1/1/2007-6/23/2017

Of the dozens of food delivery innovations that have been granted patents in the last two years, only a fraction are currently being licensed out by their inventors. As e-commerce retailers look to increase their presence in the food delivery market, it is likely that they will begin to look for licensing opportunities to utilize the food delivery technologies that have just come onto the IP market. In particular, the areas of innovation focus on:

  • refrigeration methods that enable perishable foods to stay fresh during delivery,
  • heating apparatuses that enable restaurant food to retain its ideal temperature, and
  • ordering methods that facilitate the consumer’s ability to order exactly what they want.

Patents Referenced:

Food delivery e-commerce patents

  • Patent US2017091880A1 for System and Method of Ordering and Delivering Food (USPTO)
  • Patent WO2017019501A1 for A System and Process for Managing Preparation and Packaging of Food and/or Beverage Products for a Precise Delivery Time (WIPO)
  • Patent WO2017012100A1 for Delivery Allocation Method and System for Food Ordering System (WIPO)
  • Patent US2017061518A1 for System and Method for Image Based Viewing and Ordering (US)
  • Patent WO2017012101A1 for Path Navigation Method and System for Food Ordering System (WIPO)
  • Patent CN106355317A for Food Catering Management Method and System (China)
  • Patent CN106355364A for E-Commerce Platform-Based Community System (China)
  • Patent CN205787762U for Goods and Materials Delivery Platform Based on Thing Networking (China)
  • Patent WO2016162546A8 for Food Distribution Method and System (WIPO)
  • Patent US2016328669A1 for On-Demand Delivery System (US)
  • Patent WO2016176464A1 for Devices, Systems, and Methods for Prepared Food Ordering, Sales, and Distribution (WIPO)
  • Patent CN106295989A for Food Material Management System (China)
  • Patent EP3105151A1 for Devices and System for Drive-In Retailing (Germany)
  • Patent WO2016198964A1 for An Automated Food Order and Delivery System and Method Thereof (WIPO)
  • Patent CN106200531A for Community Management System Based On Diverse Services (China)
  • Patent WO2016162546A1 for Food Distribution Method and System (WIPO)
  • Patent KR20160110814A for System, Method, and Computer Program for Management of Food Delivery (South Korea)
  • Chinese patents for meal delivery robots (there are many)

Food delivery product patents

  • Patent WO2017003943A8 for Refrigerating Home Deliveries (WIPO)
  • Patent CN205738809U for Novel Fast Food Delivery Case (China)
  • Patent CN205696532U for Constant Temperature Food Delivery Case (China)
  • Patent CN106343899A for Food Delivery Heat-Preserving Cabinet with Automatic Counting Function (China)
  • Patent CN205854978U for Intelligence Food Distribution Box (China)
  • Patent CN106347862A for Food Distribution Food Container Which Can Be Refrigerated and Heated (China)
  • Patent CN106355373A for Intelligent Management System for Fresh Food Logistics Cabinets (China)
  • Patent US2017007074A1 for Single Use Insulated Expandable Food Delivery Bag (US)
  • Patent CN205788535U for Intelligent Distribution Case and Intelligence Concatenation Cabinet with Information Propelling Movement Function (China)
  • Patent CN205696532U for Constant Temperature Food Delivery Case (China)
  • Patent CN205708061U for Controlled Food Delivery Case (China)
  • Patent CN205668515U for Multi-Functional Food Case (China)
  • Patent HK1195291A1 for Automated Food Storage Machine (Hong Kong)
  • Patent US2016304235A1 for Tamper-Evident Food Delivery Container (US)

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About the author: Debra Smetana
Debra Smetana
As a ktMINE research analyst, Debra Smetana processes and examines intellectual property daily. Her primary focus is interpreting license agreement structures. With her extensive studies of Archaeology, Debra specializes in qualitative research and can translate data into compelling narratives. She uses ktMINE’s data and analytics platform to identify IP patterns that can a provide insight into a company’s strategy and industry trends.