The cold chain industry is one that is always looking for ways and methods to improve efficiency, quality, and service. By looking at some of the top trends in the industry, we’re able to take a sneak peak at where the industry is headed and what advancements are to come.
- The Globalization of Cold Chains
As mentioned in our air freight blog, there is a growing middle class in China that is pushing for globalization of supply chains. Countries that were once unable to even afford eating out of season produce, can now important all the food they want. With this capability comes the demand for higher-end products that have to travel great distances, and ship quickly in order to ensure peak freshness and quality. Currently, the region expected to grow the fastest in the refrigerated transport market is the Asia Pacific. (source: Inbound Logistics)
- A Keen Eye for Product Quality
One-third of all the world’s food goes to waste, mostly due to spoilage on its way to consumption (source: Inbound Logistics). With this fact in mind, the food industry has set out to increase the focus and attention towards ensuring integrity, health, and quality with cold chain shipping. To accommodate this increased focus on quality and the consumer experience, refrigerated warehouses are often working to maintain as many as five different temperature zones. This helps to prevent the changes in taste and texture that occur when a shipment stays outside recommended temperatures for an extended period.Pharmaceutical products and manufacturers are dealing with accomodating to cold chain demands, too. Sensitive products such as customized treatments for rare diseases often include high-value active ingredients that have stricter temperature requirements and a shorter shelf life because of that.
- Packaging Is Getting Better All the TIme
To offset the highly sensitive nature of pharmaceutical products, manufacturers are turning towards packaging as a solution. However, with better, more insulated packaging, also comes higher shipping costs. For most small parcels, a 3PL can choose between 24, 48, or 72-hour packaging – and the cost will increase depending on how insulated the package is. International shipments must pay special attention to ensuring they are working with a partner who can re-ce a shipment if a delay were to occur.
Additionally, manufacturers are also embracing new disposable green packaging materials, as well as reusable containers to help reduce waste.
- Manufacturers Are Offloading More Services to 3PL’s
A shipper’s demand for visibility, efficiency and overall product freshness is what’s motivating cold chain 3PLs to offer a wider range of valuable services. For example, shippers are increasingly requesting that food processing be postponed. Products are being held in cold chain warehouses and only once a specific order is placed is a product then prepared and packaged for shipment. An example of this would include bringing frozen seafood up to a chilled temperature for processing. By doing this, facilities can generate higher capital cost and inventory savings.
- Cold chain is experiencing mode shifting
Due to globalization and price fluctuations in fuel costs, some cold chain operators have chosen to change the transportation mode they typically ship by. Most commonly, operators are changing from truckload to intermodal, or from air to ocean. Contributing factors for mode shift include both truck driver and capacity shortages, as well as initiatives towards improving sustainability.
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