These companies are on a quest for the holy grail: delivery french fries that don’t arrive soggy

Some are working on a crispier fry. Others on packaging solutions that don’t create a sauna for spuds.
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· 5 min read

“It breaks our heart when we don’t see delivery done right—like soggy fries,” declared a Domino’s commercial released in February. The spot said Domino’s wouldn’t be introducing fries to its delivery menu, instead introducing Loaded Tots with pizza toppings, which it claimed are still crispy when delivered.

The commercial highlighted a problem all too familiar to restaurants: The beloved french fry can go limp in delivery orders.

But companies are attacking the soggy-fry dilemma, both by developing crispier fries and packaging solutions that keep them that way. And in a world obsessed with french fries, when someone comes up with a solution that really takes hold, glory—and riches—could await.

Playing ketchup: For all the challenges involved, french-fry delivery has been booming:

  • In 2022, french fries were part of 14.8% of deliveries by US restaurants, up from 6.8% in the year that ended in December 2019, according to Circana/Crest data provided by Lamb Weston.

Lamb Weston, the Idaho-based potato processor that supplies french fries to national and regional chains (but declined to name them), thinks a french fry line it developed has something to do with that bump.

In 2018, the brand introduced Crispy on Delivery, a fries line with a batter containing corn, potato, and other starches that enhance crispiness.

“We focused a tremendous amount of our R&D and market research around coming up with a better product that would hold up for at least 30 minutes in any kind of package, except one that’s completely sealed,” Kim Cupelli, vice president of marketing and innovation at Lamb Weston, told us.

The problem with a sealed box, Cupelli said, is that it can trap the steam and condensation inside.

“That is no good for a fry,” Cupelli said. “That is putting a fry into a sauna—and that means soggy fries.”

That vent well: Adrianne K. Tipton, chief technology officer at Novolex, a South Carolina-based packaging manufacturer, told us that the company has long counted “most” national restaurant chains among its customers, but declined to name them.

When it comes to fries losing crispness when delivered, “everyone that offers french fries asked us if we had a solution for this,” Tipton said. “Some…would not even offer french fries on their delivery menu because they didn’t feel like the consumer experience was as it should be and they didn’t want to denigrate their brand.”

Novolex introduced Fresh & Crispy clamshell containers in 2019. They feature oval- and triangle-shaped holes on their tops and sides, and are made with finely corrugated cardboard (called micro-flute) for better heat-retaining insulation.

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It is rocket science: You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to take on soggy fries—but it doesn’t hurt

Bill Birgen worked in the aerospace divisions of companies including Northrop Grumman and Stratolaunch, where he designed thermodynamic solutions for both rockets and jets. His job was to regulate the temperature and humidity in the cabins and prevent icing on the exterior.

Birgen also is the founder of SAVRPak, which makes square adhesive pads that attach to the inside lid of a delivery box. Thanks to thermodynamics, the pads, which are stored in the freezer beforehand, draw steam from the air, meaning the moisture collects inside the pad rather than forming condensation in the box.

While Lamb Weston recommends its fries be put in ventilated boxes like those made by Novolex, Birgen disagrees.

Holes let in “outside air which is not dry,” Birgen told us, meaning humidity. “With SAVRpak, we are controlling the environment. We want it to be sealed because we control the moisture.”

A still from a SAVRPak demo video shows that, after 25 minutes, one clear container containing french fries and fitted with a SAVRPak pad is clear, while another clear container containing fries and no SAVRPak pad is all fogged up.


A video the company posted to YouTube shows how side-by-side servings of fries placed in sealed clear plastic containers, only one of them with a pad, hold up for 25 minutes. While the SAVRpak container remains clear, the other steams up within two minutes.

The company secured a $3.5 million round of seed funding led by Mark Cuban in 2021.

Scott Nelson, SAVRpak’s president, said that the products cost from 12 to 17 cents, depending on the scale of the purchase, and have been available through Sysco, the food-service supplier, since 2020. The company is partnering with packaging companies on prototypes that incorporate the pad into packaging rather than having to stick it on, but Nelson declined to provide more details, citing non-disclosure agreements.

Hot air: While these solutions may sound promising, Darren Tristano, an industry analyst and CEO and founder of Foodservice Results, said until they’re foolproof and broadly used, consumers ordering delivery will take matters into their own hands.

“The holy grail solution is you get an air fryer and you make your own french fries and you just don’t order them because yes, they’re definitely going to get cold and soggy,” he said.

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.