Do you want to eat your favorite ice cream that is melting?
Do you want to eat a chocolate that is ready to drip in your hands?
Do you want to eat fruits that are stale?
Do you want to get a vaccine that is not stored as per regulations?
I guess not.
Have you ever been to a farm on the outskirts of your city? If not, it’s time you do. Unlike the farms we see in movies, there are no fields of fresh corn swaying in the wind. What you see is usually one farmer managing (and often not managing) everything around her: sowing the seeds, harvesting, running errands and feeding her cattle at the same time! How do you think that a fruit that this farmer grows is still fresh when it reaches you?
Let’s take another instance. Ice creams travel across the country and still retain their shape, form and taste when they reach the closest retail shop and then to your home. How do you think that this is happening?
Cold chains, in various degrees, have been used across the globe to ensure that healthy food is delivered.
As with everything the cold chains have evolved too. While the basic purpose is still to protect the integrity of food and medicines, the modern cold chains are offering more than just that. In this article let us see how the cold chains have evolved and why is it important more than ever to have a robust cold chain in place.
Evolution of cold chains
The first-generation cold chain was just ice put in containers along with the products, mostly fish, meat and vegetables. Later in the second generation there were some developments in the containers that were made specific to a product. The ice was still a base here. The third generation saw a lot more advanced technologies, such as monitoring, temperature control, modern trucks, and the hazardous dry ice. During all these phases, cold chain was only compared to the transportation of products from point A to point B. The technology, process, systems, logistics is all the same whether the product is an ice cream or a chocolate or a cake or even a vaccine.
The modern cold chain is reimagining each and every little aspect to make it more viable, reliable and sustainable for the product manufacturers, logistics partners and the consumers.
Here are the questions one can ask self to decide on why it is important to have a robust cold chain.
Is your cold chain protecting the food/medicine integrity?
The role of a cold chain is beyond transporting a product under cold temperatures. When we say “product integrity”, it includes the form, hygiene, quality and nutrition. The modern products are complex. E.g Some of the recent chocolates have images on them and can be cut in a way to make a heart. Your cold chain needs to ensure that the chocolate reaches the retailer and then the consumer with the same form as it was intended. Is your cold chain truly able to protect the product integrity?
Is your cold chain providing precision temperatures?
Let us continue with the same chocolate example. The chocolate needs precision temperature to retain it shape. A few degrees here and there will either melt it or makes it rock solid. Similarly, there are medicines that demand precision temperature. A small deviation of -2 degrees C can compromise the medicine effectiveness. The cold chain must be equipped to handle the precision temperature requirement and constantly monitor it to keep it that way.
Do you have complete visibility and automated temperature adjustment mechanism across cold chain?
The truck leaves the manufacturer and reaches its destination either in hours or days. The temperature might be set at required level. E.g. at -4 degrees C. However, if the product is moving from a hotter climate to a colder climate, the impact of external weather needs adjustment in the temperature so that the average required temperature is maintained. This happens with frequent deliveries. Every time the truck door is opened the temperature inside fluctuates. Does your cold chain automatically adjust the temperature?
Are you still using dry ice? There was a time when cold chains are equated to dry ice based transportation. Dry ice is Co2 and is extremely hazardous to the people involved in transportation and to the product and eventually to the consumer. There are several PCM (phase change material) based technologies that remove the usage of dry ice and makes the product retain its hygiene and nutrition.
Is your cold chain saving money and environment?
This perhaps is one of the biggest boons of the modern cold chain and the top reason to have a robust cold chain. We still see companies unnecessarily spending millions of dollars on diesel to keep the coolers running throughout the delivery. Money is being spent, natural resources, such as diesel is being wasted and the GHG emission levels are going up. There is no win in this deal. New technologies, such as PCM helps you save significantly over diesel consumption and still keep your products cool through its rechargeable/re-cool features. We helped organizations save over 45% on diesel consumption, 60% of costs and millions of tons of GHG missions.
Are you significantly reducing food wastage?
Globally $940B is the economic loss due to food wastage. While this number covers various aspects of food wastage, as significant portion comes from the wastage during transportation without proper temperature control mechanisms. An important goal and a reason to have a cold chain is to reduce the food wastage and prolong the life of a product without compromising on its nutrition. Modern cold chains track this and are an important factor while considering the ROI.
Conclusion Cold chains have evolved significantly in last half a decade and the pandemic accelerated the need for a robust cold chain for a range of products be it ice cream, vegetables, meat, fish, vaccines, bakery products and so on. The brands and the logistics partners need to stop looking at cold chain as a transportation business but view as a solution that retains the product integrity and delivers a viable, reliable and a sustainable experience to everyone in the ecosystem.