While cold storage containers provide numerous advantages to the food industry, they can also lead to massive amounts of food waste due to issues such as temperature complications and pest control.
“Market data shows that we have around $35 billion in food spoilage every year,” said Chris Wolfe, CEO of logistics solutions provider PowerFleet. “One of the major reasons for spoilage is pest infestation. The two major reasons that go hand-in-hand in pest infestation are temperature incursions and bad handling.”
Temperature and Pests
The largest concern for a perishable commodity is the way it is stored and transported. According to CBRE, cold storage logistics companies provide a wide array of services to their customers. For example, Americold offers the following services as part of its warehouse operations: product receipt and handling, product retrieval, blast freezing, case-picking, kitting and repackaging, order assembly and load consolidation, export and import support services, storage inspection, and cross docking.
Equipping cold storage containers with a two-way command control helps manage possible temperature incursions at any point during operations without affecting the conditions within the container as stakeholders can adjust temperature settings in real time, reported Freight Waves (Jan. 2).
Pest infestation can be directly related to temperature control and is a critical issue because they are usually found at the end of the supply chain process, leading to a huge waste of resources.
Besides paying close attention to storage temperature, Chelle Hartzer, BCE, manager, technical services, Orkin, recommended having the appropriate monitoring devices in the right places to help prevent a pest infestation in cold storage. “Make sure any insect light traps are placed at around eye level and close—but not shining outwards—to doors,” she said. She also stressed the importance of sanitation and being cognizant of minimizing food particles and water sources that can attract pests.
According to CRS Mobile Cold Storage, storing goods at the wrong temperature can also drastically affect quality, causing food to spoil faster or become unsafe for consumption. After the correct temperature is set, it is crucial to monitor the temperature inside the unit for fluctuations.
Additionally, freezing goods does not necessarily mean they will be suitable for use as long as they are kept frozen. Produce has set durations they can be frozen to ensure safety and quality once thawed. Most fruits and vegetables can be stored for 10-12 months without significant quality loss, according to The World Food Logistics Organization.
Extending shelf life is an important part in reducing food waste and companies are trialing different methods of ensuring produce stays fresh for as long as possible.
BerryCo., one of the world’s largest producers of berries, worked with Sonoco Thermosafe, a temperature-controlled packaging solutions company, to deliver sweeter berries with longer shelf life and less product loss, reported Healthcare Packaging.
Sonoco Thermosafe reprogrammed its PharmaPort 360, dubbing it the “Berry Port.” Shipping at 1 degree Celsius, compared to the 2 to 8 degree range, extended the berries’ shelf life by three to four days when compared to standard air freight methods.
Meanwhile, UK-based grocer Tesco increased the shelf life of several fruits and vegetables by two days via cutting their time in transit through direct shipments from suppliers to stores several years ago, according to ReFed. Tesco removed a food packaging stage within its supply chain, allowing consumers to use the produce for longer.
Other companies are working to reduce waste by applying coating directly to produce. For example, Apeel Sciences built a barrier out of edible plant materials that slows down the rate of produce spoilage by keeping moisture in and oxygen out. It is made from lipids and glycerolipids that exist in the peels, seeds, and pulp of fruits and vegetables. Currently, Apeel avocados are available at major U.S. grocery stores.
Another key aspect in reducing food waste is choosing the appropriate cold storage unit to fit the needs of what is being stored. According to CRS, correct arrangement of a cold storage unit, which can often be overlooked, is also essential. Considering factors such as food groups, dates, and temperatures, as well as appropriate access, can be key in making sure nothing goes to waste.