There are many specialty areas in the logistics industry. One example is the cold food supply chain. While the food supply chain is already complex, the cold food supply chain has numerous demands and third-party logistics (3PL) companies need to play their part.

The cold chain is a logistics management process whereby perishable products need to be temperature controlled, making sure food remains fresh while minimizing potential contamination by bacteria and viruses from the point of origin through the distribution chain to the final consumer. How else does the cold supply chain differ from the normal supply chain? What should eCommerce companies know?

The Time-Sensitive Nature of Cold Food Supply Chains

When moving perishable goods from its point of origin through to its final destination, equipment and packaging must be meticulously planned out to ensure the food arrives in its original state. This includes making sure any intermediary points have the right storage containers to protect the food during the journey. The faster the loading and unloading processes goes, the less time the perishable goods are spent outside the refrigerator or freezer.

This is particularly important for eCommerce companies prior to arranging deliveries to their customers. Once the products arrive safely at their third-party logistics provider’s temperature-controlled warehouse, they need to be kept in a temperature-controlled environment according to the products requirements. Once an order is ready to go out to the end consumer, it is critical to have predetermined the box, insulation, coolant, and transit times to get it to the end user uncompromised. This generally means 1-2 days in transit to ensure the items remain fresh or frozen.

The Demand for Temperature-Controlled Containers

 The normal food supply chain does not necessarily require temperature-controlled containers; however, they are required for cold food. Without these containers, cold food would perish en route. eCommerce companies need to think about how they can use these cold food containers while minimizing their overhead expenses. A few important points to note about cold food refrigerators include:

  • 3PL companies must make sure the refrigerator is at the right temperature before loading the food into the fridge.
  • There must be an onboard generator to keep the refrigerator or freezer running during the journey.
  • A transportation refrigerator is far more expensive than a typical food container.

This refrigeration requirement is one of the biggest ways that the cold food supply chain is different from a regular supply chain.

The Public Health Impact and eCommerce Cold Food Delivery

 E-commerce companies might find that some of their cold foods are being transported with other goods to minimize the cost of shipping and delivery. For example, the cold food supply chain could include antibiotics, vaccinations, and even insulin for diabetics. In a lot of cases, these temperature-controlled goods are transported together to minimize expenses. This means that maintaining cold food quality has a direct impact on maintaining the quality of medical goods. eCommerce companies need to understand the impact of the cold food chain on public health, where the normal food supply chain might not play as big of a role.

Cold Food Supply Chains Require More Documentation

 There is more paperwork to complete with the cold food supply chain as well, and eCommerce companies are responsible for handling this, even remotely. Carriers must maintain logs of temperature readings hourly during the journey. While eCommerce companies want to get their orders to their 3PL’s as quickly as possible, it is critical not to overlook these cold food regulations. If this information is not recorded correctly, the logistics company could be held liable. Likewise, temperature readings are not required in the normal food supply chain.

The Cold Food Supply Chain Is More Expensive

Finally, the biggest difference between the cold food supply chain and the normal food supply chain is that the cold food supply chain is more expensive. While cold food refrigerators and freezers are expensive to buy, they are also expensive to maintain. eCommerce companies that have their own cold storage need to perform routine maintenance, if they want to ensure their refrigerators remain operational. eCommerce companies need to work with a partner that understands the importance of this type of maintenance.

Work with an Experienced Logistics Company on All eCommerce Cold Food Supply Chain Issues

 Even though the cold food supply chain can be more difficult to manage, there are third-party logistics companies that specialize in this area and can help eCommerce companies run a successful supply chain. If you have fresh or frozen food that you need to transport, you must ensure its quality when it reaches its destination. Work with an experienced third-party logistics company for all cold food supply chain issues.