Cold Supply Chain: Keeping it fresh
By Sumantra Sengupta
If you frequent trendy restaurants or shop at your local food co-op, you know that the emphasis on fresh and local ingredients has never been more intense. Waiters regale us with the provenance of the artisanal cheese from Vermont, the herbs picked fresh that morning from a plot behind the restaurant and the free range organic chicken from the farm just out of town. The apotheosis may have been the episode of the television series Portlandia, in which the lead characters visited a farm to find out if the chicken they were about to eat for dinner had lived a good life before driving back to the restaurant to enjoy their meal.
While you might be tempted to dismiss it all as a passing fad, remember that Papa John’s has built a brand around the concept that better ingredients lead to a better pizza, and has created a supply chain designed to deliver on that promise. It’s distribution centers even feature production areas to make fresh pizza dough right before a shipment to its stores. As the Huffington Post once noted, the freshness movement “is more than just a buzzword — it represents an important cultural shift over the past 10 years in both the food industry and in the dining public’s priorities.”
Nor is it a North American phenomenon that is limited to the farm-to-table movement. As the population grows, governments around the world are ramping up their imports and exports of fresh agricultural and food products to feed a hungry world. In the United States, Europe and Latin America, export volumes of food have reached between 18% and 30% of total production, according to 2016 data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. More recently, MENA (Middle East North Africa) countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have been importing more than ever, with Saudi Arabia increasing its year over year imports by 20% and the UAE declaring that food imports will increase from $100 billion to a projected $400 billion annually in the next 10-plus years. These will comprise of all human and animal grade fresh and processed foods. The result is that human and animal grade food products are under heightened scrutiny for freshness and palatability.
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