May 17, 2020

A New Ice Age? Demand for Refrigerated Transport and Cold Storage

Freddie Pierce
4 min
Refrigerated transportation vehicle

Supply Chain Digital has previously reported on the growing frozen and chilled food market and its impact on cold store facilities. The increasing dema...

Supply Chain Digital has previously reported on the growing frozen and chilled food market and its impact on cold store facilities. The increasing demand for refrigerated goods has also had an effect on the companies that transport those products worldwide. Temperature-controlled transportation businesses are being encouraged to innovate in order to keep pace with the ever-changing needs of the chilled market.

Philip Edge, director of logistics provider Edge Worldwide Logistics, said of the industry: “Those that specialize in frozen food distribution have the buying power and expertise to improve efficiency and visibility, whilst making significant savings.”

The continued growth of the market is a combination of increased demand from consumers for convenience food - one of the consequences of the economic downturn. It is also due to the requirement for fresh food, as opposed to products with a shelf life.

Ingersoll Rand, the international supplier to transportation, manufacturing, construction and agricultural industries, said in November that its total reported third quarter revenues were up 8 percent on the same period last year. Michael W. Lamach, chairman, president and CEO, commented: “We are seeing improvement in several of our key markets, including global demand for refrigerated transport and industrial and commercial HVAC in Asia.”

Frozen and chilled distribution is not only a developing sector in the UK and U.S., as Ingersoll Rand’s results demonstrate.

Shipping company CMA CGM announced the launch of its new Victory Bridge service in October. It links North Europe to the U.S. South Atlantic, Mexico and the U.S. Gulf. The service is responding to the increased demand for refrigerated goods on the trade route between Mexico and Europe, according to the company.“

With this optimization, the Group will provide the best transit times of the market from Mexico and U.S. South Atlantic to North Europe, thus ensuring optimal service quality especially for the transport of refrigerated goods, particularly sensitive to travel times,” explained Jean-Philippe Thenoz, senior vice president North America lines, CMA CGM Group.

With transport companies under pressure to lower their carbon footprint, the movement of local produce to supermarkets and other food retailers, thereby shortening the supply chain, has been welcomed. However, it does pose challenges when it comes to transporting fresh food at the correct temperatures.

Edge believes the distribution of frozen food needs to be brought into the 21st century. “The frozen food distribution system is archaic in its approach, and the majority of frozen food importers think this is the norm,” he explains. “In fact, it is far behind the efficient and transparent supply chains of chilled and ambient distribution in terms of management.”

However, a new development by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Phototonic Microsystems IMPS in Dresden, Germany, could impact the way food is transported. Using radio chips, they have created a transponder that measures temperature, pressure and humidity.

While radio chips are more commonly used to supply data in order to identify products, by fitting them with sensor functions, researchers have created a new use for them. “We have combined the UHF (Ultra-High Frequency) transponder technology with sensor technology,” explained project manager Hans-Jürgen Holland.

According to the Institute, if the temperature rises unexpectedly during refrigerated transport, the intelligent chip recognizes the variation immediately and reports this to the reader.

Edge has also recognized a way in which distribution companies can resolve the issue of the outdated cold chain. He explains that a few specialist frozen food logistics providers have preferred lines that work alongside local partners to ensure a “smooth service” with full supply chain control.

“This drives down cost considerably, helping importers of frozen food to save a great deal,” he adds. “They just need to be made aware that a cost effective alternative is out there.”

The cold distribution market is finding innovative ways to keep up with the changing demands of consumers and retailers. With shipping and transport companies alike preparing themselves for further growth in the distribution of refrigerated products, the sector remains buoyant. Such developments should help the refrigerated transport industry shake its “archaic” reputation and become as advanced as the cold store facilities that serve the industry.

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