Food lorries are covering far more ground on the average trip, says Retail Logistics 2004, with the average distance per journey increasing by 16% from 185km in 2002 to 214km in 2003.
Backhauling - where retailers lengthen journeys by picking up goods from suppliers on the way back from making store deliveries - has been a key factor in the change.
Asda, for example, increased its volume of backhaul cases from 107 million in 2002 to 135 million in 2003, while Booker dramatically increased its backhauling activities, picking up 12.4 million cases from suppliers in 2003 compared to 6.6 million in 2002.
The trend towards reducing stock in the supply chain also continued in 2003, says the report. Tesco reduced average stockholding (food-only) by 9% to nine days, while Sainsbury cut stock by 3% to nine days.
The greatest improvements have been in frozen foods, where stock levels fell from an
average of 9.2 to 8.9 days, while progress has been made in reducing some non-food stock.
However, average stock levels for beers, wines and spirits rose from 14.5 days to 19.2 days, despite initiatives from some of the larger retailers to set up wine consolidation centres.