Cold Chain Logistics and the Food Industry

December 27, 2021 | Articles

Previously, we discussed the global organic food industry, which has grown at a rapid rate over the last decade. The market is poised to reach USD 262.85 billion between 2017 to 2022, with 90% of sales taking place in North America and Europe.

Organic foods are high in demand, as consumers want to eat produce that is natural, healthy, and free of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Technological advancements in organic farming allow for the production of high-quality and safe food — but what about freshness? With freshly-grown fruits taking the first position in international trade, organizations must ensure shipments arrive in perfect condition, especially if they're perishable and are being brought to places where they can't be found naturally.

For these purposes, the cold chain is the industry’s best option. In fact, while Americans waste 40% of their food supply each year, cold chains can keep perishable food loss down to as low as 2%. That's why knowing the logistics behind them is a must for anyone in the food business.


Cold Chain Systems: An Overview

Simply put, a cold chain is a temperature-controlled supply chain. Glimmers of the concept began to appear before the Industrial Revolution, when fish and meat were stored in ice for preservation purposes. Then, in the 1930s, inventor Frederick McKinley Jones equipped trucks with air conditioning to carry perishable foods over long distances. Today, cold chains can control the temperature all the way from production to consumption.

Moreover, cold chains help with more than just food. They're currently used in transporting much-needed COVID-19 vaccines, along with other pharmaceutical and temperature-sensitive products, to all corners of the globe.

After perishable food items are collected from producers, they are immediately stored at particular temperature ranges and prepped for transport. From here, they can either make their way to the shop, or be used to manufacture other items. Here are the two biggest components that make this happen:

Storage

Temperature-controlled facilities, including those within transportation vehicles, play a big role in all parts of the supply chain. Instead of checking on them manually, you can monitor and maintain temperatures remotely through the use of smart technology that utilizes the Internet of Things (IoT), which is the technology that helps control the thermostats in smart homes.

Newer warehouses even have self-contained refrigeration units with zero-water requirements, meaning they use less resources without compromising their overall performance. Modern printed circuit boards (PCBs) with multiple grids, which allow for a more efficient power layout, help make this possible. PCBs also make it easier to identify points required for testing, so it's now cheaper to produce and purchase technologies that make the IoT possible today.

But despite being more energy-efficient, it's still important for storage facilities to make use of uninterrupted power supply . This prevents major temperature fluctuations from causing food spoilage during power outages.

Packaging - Food Industry

Packaging is crucial to keep the freshness of temperature-sensitive food items intact. To do so, you can use thermal blankets or bags, rigid insulated vacuum panels, or insulated boxes. All of these options are designed to further help storage facilities prevent temperature fluctuations, no matter the circumstance. Human staff members trained to handle cold chain logistics can also provide quality control and prevent food losses by managing unexpected packaging breakdowns.


The Future of Cold Chain Industries: Outlook and Potential Challenges

On the whole, cold chain logistics will continue to be a major player in the food industry and beyond. With the rising demand for better food quality, surging need for reducing food wastage, and increasing demand for temperature-sensitive drugs, the cold chain monitoring market is projected to reach USD 10.2 billion by 2026. Two factors that hold back the market’s growth are the complexity of installing cold chain monitoring solutions, and the high implementation costs of cold chain monitoring.

In terms of technology, however, automation and cold storage technologies to control warehouse assets may open more opportunities for the market. Hardware such as sensors, data loggers, RFID devices, telematics, telemetry devices, and networking devices will be leveraged to sense environments and relay information to a centralized database. Efficient transportation to avoid product spoilage will likewise make use of technologies like phase-change gel bricks, doubled-up packaging, and active cooling to secure shipments.


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Sadhana Yadav
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