The Cold Chain: Storage
The cold chain is a subset of the supply chain specifically for temperature-sensitive perishable goods. The cold chain is intended to maintain the quality and safety of products throughout the food and beverage industry and the pharmaceuticals industry.
Storing refrigerated products is an essential step in the cold chain and requires careful planning to ensure that products are not spoiled or damaged along the way. This article will cover the various ways temperature-sensitive products are stored throughout the cold chain.
The history of Cold Chain technology
The history of the cold chain can be traced back to the early 1800s when French scientist Nicolas Appert invented a method for preserving food. He discovered that it could be kept fresh for an extended period by heating food and then sealing it in airtight containers.
In the early 1900s, Clarence Birdseye developed the process of freezing food, which helped to preserve its flavor and texture. These two inventions laid the foundation for the modern cold chain. The cold chain has come a long way since its inception, and there are now many different technologies in place to maintain and monitor temperature-sensitive products that allow perishable goods to be shipped internationally.
How the Cold Chain works
Once a perishable product is harvested or labeled with a "cold" or "frozen" sticker, it's on the cold chain. The goods are monitored from production to the point of sale, ensuring that the temperature is never too high or too low. If something goes wrong and the temperature rises above or falls below the acceptable range, it can lead to significant consequences, including loss of life.
The farther the distance a perishable item has to travel, the higher the risk of spoilage. Think about a perishable product produced overseas and intended to be shipped worldwide. Once the product is harvested and deemed perishable, it is placed into a refrigerated container and sent to the nearest port. After crossing the ocean, it's loaded onto a refrigerated truck or railcar and transported to the distribution center. Once it arrives at the DC, the product is unloaded and moved into a refrigerated warehouse. It will stay in this warehouse until it's time to ship to retailers. Shipping to retailers requires a refrigerated truck equipped with a cooling unit. The refrigerated truck may make several stops along the way to the retailer, and finally, the product arrives at the store.
As you can see, cold chain logistics is a complex system that requires a lot of coordination and planning. Cold chain goods must remain within their specified temperature requirements throughout the entire cold chain to ensure the product's integrity. Understanding the cold chain process allows for developing a successful cold chain strategy that is both sustainable and reduces waste. Agencies like the Cold Chain Alliance provide benefits to members, such as best practices and networking with industry experts dedicated to strengthening the global cold chain.
Cold Chain storage
Another layer of complexity added to the cold chain is that various products require different temperatures or humidity to remain in good condition. For example, produce, meat, and dairy products have varying temperature requirements. Some of the most common cold chain storage solutions for varying needs include refrigeration, freezing, and controlled atmosphere storage. A grocery distribution center will typically have all three of these options to store the various products that they distribute.
Refrigerated warehouses are the most common cold chain storage space. They are used to store food and beverage items, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics. Refrigerated warehouses are typically large and used to store various products. They are also relatively cheap to build, so they are a popular choice for cold chain operators. The downside to refrigerated warehouses is that they require a lot of energy. This can lead to high utility bills, especially for outdated facilities.
Frozen warehouses store meat, seafood, and other frozen products like your favorite ice cream. They are similar to refrigerated warehouses but suited to store products at a lower temperature. As with refrigerated warehouses, these facilities require a lot of energy. Industry leaders are finding big wins toward sustainability goals by replacing outdated cooling systems and implementing alternate power capabilities. CSW found their investment in solar was a great benefit for the cold storage industry because when the sun is at its hottest, the power is needed the most.
Controlled atmosphere storage rooms
Bananas, plants, and other products that are highly sensitive to temperature and require specific humidity levels are kept in controlled atmosphere storage rooms. These rooms extend the shelf life of these products by controlling the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the air. The temperature and humidity are carefully monitored to ensure that they remain at the optimal level for the product.
The future of the Cold Chain
The cold chain is growing rapidly, and there are many opportunities for businesses that want to get involved. In particular, there is a need for more storage as demand continues to outpace supply. At the end of last year, over 96% of cold storage capacity was occupied.
Expect to see investments in automated refrigerated storage such as micro fulfillment centers and automated refrigerated warehouses. Investments in energy-efficient refrigerated storage solutions will also continue to grow. The goal is to reduce the carbon footprint of the cold chain while still meeting the needs of businesses. The future of the cold chain looks bright, and there are many opportunities for businesses that are willing to invest in this growing industry. With the proper planning and execution, your business can be a part of this exciting industry.