The Cold Chain Is Heating Up

The Cold Chain Is Heating Up

The growth of online grocery shopping has created a cold storage shortage and is forcing warehouses to scale up rapidly.

This expansion is far from cheap but is required to store increasingly larger quantities of fresh products. The article illustrates how new societal trends trigger new logistics challenges.

Video Spotlight: Managing the Cold Chain

This post is based on the LA Times article, All That Online Grocery Shopping Is Causing a Cold Storage Shortage, by R. Vincent, July 7, 2019, and the YouTube video Best Practices: Managing the Cold Chain, by Thermo King Europe, November 8, 2016. Image source: Shutterstock/Marian Weyo.

Discussion Questions:

1. What is the “cold chain”?

Guidance: The cold chain is essentially a refrigerated supply chain. Fresh, perishable products are kept at a constant, low temperature from production/harvest to storage to retail and sometimes to consumption. Transportation of the cool cargo is also temperature-controlled. Cold chain logistics requires special technologies and equipment to maintain the right temperature during all stages of production and distribution.

2. What are the factors that have contributed to a higher demand for cold storage?

Guidance: Factors include growth in online grocery shopping and prepared meal services, increased imports and exports of fresh products, demographics, consumer preferences for preservative-free foods, and the trend to outsource storage and distribution in the food industry.

3. From an environmental perspective, is the “aversion to chemical food preservatives” consistent with increased refrigeration?

Guidance: It is a trade-off. Consumers who prefer preservative-free foods also tend to favor organic produce and meats. These preferences reduce the use of potentially toxic chemicals and pollutants in food production, but they also promote the demand for refrigeration units that contain chemicals emitting greenhouse gases. This is in addition to the pollution caused by increased traffic to and from warehouses. Efforts to “green” the cold chain are ongoing.


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