Matching food storage to end user needs
By Mari Macnamara
Consumer food habits are changing, which means that food-supply cold chains and cold storage facilities should change too.
Today, cold storage demand is driven by three things, according to Carl Fowler, senior vice president of regional sales at warehousing and transportation company, Americold. “First, consumer demand for fresh food is growing. Second, retailers are exploring new channels to meet customer demand.
Third, the global food-supply chain is expanding,” he says.
A 2016 World Bank Logistics Performance Index placed South Africa at the top, stating that the country possesses the best transport and logistics system in sub-Saharan Africa, followed by Kenya, Botswana, Uganda, and Tanzania.
“We see more and more food shippers, distributors and ecommerce providers in need of cold storage and refrigerated centres. The demand for cold and fresh goods has grown,” says Nick Pacitti of cold-storage company Tippmann Innovation. The rising population has put strain on supply-chain infrastructure. There is also a need for a distributed cold chain – where refrigerated fulfilment centres are closer to demand clusters. This enables more efficient and faster deliveries.
Another notable trend is the adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) systems and technologies to improve cold storage and refrigeration processes.
“There are more companies using tools for automated temperature monitoring, like refrigerated or freezer trucks,” says Heena Patel, food safety technical director for SCS Global Services.
The local meat cold chain has been cited as a potential growth area by government. Professor Lise Korsten, co-director at the Department of Science and Technology: Centre of Excellence Food Security (DST-NRF centre) shares that a listeriosis outbreak in 2017 and 2018 was a reflection of the weaknesses in the food system. “There is a critical shortage of regulators, inspectors, laboratory personnel, scientists and auditors,” she says.
“It is this lack of food safety and quality awareness in the storage and transportation industry about the importance of cold chain maintenance from door-to-door that can have a major impact,” says Patel.
Cloud-based supply chain software to IoT sensors and devices to near real-time analytics reports have all offered partial answers to managing the cold chain and cold storage. Company efforts have focused on bringing all these technologies together into solution sets that present total solutions, but perfecting these systems is still a work in progress.
“We are seeing automation and robotics replacing time-consuming manual processes, speeding up the movement of food through the nation’s supply chain,” says Fowler.
Food retailers, distributors, logistics providers, producers and those that provide cold chain and cold storage services must develop strategies for meeting changing markets.
“There is also a move toward specialty foods, and more products are being imported and exported,” says Pacitti. “For companies with cold-chain needs, look to the cold chain for innovation and inspiration,” advises Fowler. “By partnering with a company with strong cold chain expertise, companies can use the cold chain as part of the product life cycle.”
What you can do:
· Continuous temperature monitoring devices in trucks;
· Maintenance of refrigeration systems and door seals in the trucks;
· Do not overload trucks; and
· Keep reefer units on when unloading and loading products.