How consumer demand for fresh food during the pandemic is transforming Cold Storage practices
With the recent COVID outbreak, consumer food habits are changing—and it is having a direct impact on food supply cold chains and cold storage facilities.
What’s Driving Today’s Cold Storage Demand?
- Consumer demand for fresh food is growing.
- Retail outlets are exploring new channels to meet customer demand.
- The global food supply chain is expanding.
A few years ago, consumers weren’t asking for more choices in fresh and frozen foods. With the advent of social media promoting healthy eating trends, the scenario has changed.
Increased demand for seafood is evident around the world, and the growing desire for seafood and other foods has led to a rise in imports and exports among countries. In turn, this is driving the need for more cold storage and refrigerated transportation.
The retail sector has grown, and there is increased concern about food waste, product recalls and product withdrawals. The number of cold-stored products in demand has also grown. Products now range from refrigerated or frozen desserts, fruits, vegetables, and beverages, to meat, fish and seafood. Food products not stored and distributed within required temperature ranges will adversely affect quality and food safety, so refrigeration and cold storage are very important.
The role of Technology in Cold Storages
While expanding the network of cold storage facilities due to the increase in demand to proximate consumer markets is one trend, another notable trend is the adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT). To improve cold storage and refrigeration processes, automated temperature monitoring in the refrigerated or freezer trucks (reefers) are now being used to transport food products. To ensure food safety monitoring and compliance, transporters and distributors are using cellular and Wi-Fi capabilities that enable a device to connect via cell service when necessary and via the customer’s existing Wi-Fi network when available. These monitoring devices act as a cold chain reliability data logger, ensuring food safety monitoring and compliance.
Mounting Cold Chain Pressures
Meanwhile, food manufacturers, shippers, distributors and retailers are up against several challenges:
- Foods must be delivered in fresh, good tasting and safe condition for consumers to enjoy so they maintain a good impression of the company brand
- Foods that are delivered on time and “on-demand” to consumers who are accustomed to Amazon service
- A wide variety of foods that gives consumers options—which means that those in the food supply cold chain must deal with many more products, product SKUs and environmental cooling conditions.
Cold Storage Best Practices
Given the diversity and the increasing volumes of perishable goods that consumers are demanding, food retailers, distributors, logistics providers, producers and those that provide cold chain and cold storage services must develop strategies for meeting changing markets.
- Companies can use the cold chain as part of the product life cycle (i.e., ripening, preservation, waste elimination).
- Common-sense practices like maintenance of refrigeration systems and door seals in the trucks and usage of continuous temperature monitoring devices to maintain proper temperatures help the cold chain to perform more optimally.
- Companies can also avoid overloading trucks with products to maintain a consistent temperature and keep reefer units on when unloading and loading products.
Consumers want their food in “near real-time”—and this specific demand is driving food producers and cold storage providers to find new ways to bring the product to market faster.”