March 01, 2023

The Cold Chain


Food&Beverage logistics is taking an increasingly leading role in the global landscape because it represents one of the more dynamic and innovation-oriented industries. However, companies which operate in the various divisions of the Food&Beverage sector rarely have the opportunity to monitor the journey performance of their products form a more accurate perspective than the mere box-tracking. Realistically, today very little is known about a given shipment: both the sender and the recipient have an interest in knowing what happened during the journey, but it might happen that they do not even know if their product has been delivered at the best, temperature controlled conditions.

For those who ship wine, food or other sensitive and perishable products, obtaining the assurance that the transportation has been carried out keeping the cold chain intact and collecting temperature data and transportation conditions regarding their own products become a business need, both to avoid future recall campaigns and to comply with national and international legislation about Food Safety, such as EU Regulation 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs, the guidelines of HACCP handbooks, ISO 22000 standard.

Let us have a closer look at what the cold chain is, which are the issues faced by logistical operators working with this kind of transports, and some industry statistics that will help us to outline more precisely its scope. Finally, we will show how Wenda, an Italian startup supported by many investors, has created some solutions to the issues that often arise in cold chain shipments. 

The cold chain, its issues and a certification system

A cold chain is simply a supply chain which maintains a constant temperature from production to final sale, including the transport and storage stages, to preserve quality and safety of sensitive and perishable products. The cold chain can be controlled by a quality management system that should analyze, control, document and verify it. The general approach goes according to the implementation of increasingly qualifying levels, to finally get a verified status. This can be achieved through:

  • component verification: it works on packaging components;
  • operational verification: it is for proving that processes work at maximum operational levels too;
  • performance verification: it is for proving that what really happens is within the limits of maximum operational levels.

A thermal test too can help to certify the cold chain. In laboratory, environmental chambers are used to simulate different environmental profiles which a package might face in its distribution cycle. Data-logger measure the temperature inside the cargo separately, to determine the reaction of the package to test conditions. 

Replicating the tests on the basis of established protocols leads to the creation of a final verification report, which can be used to defend the configuration of the cold chain, if asked by authorities.

Every time the cold chain is not in compliance with protocols, the event should be properly documented, analyzed and fixed, so that further temperature variations do not occur in future shipments. Every anomaly is therefore considered Non Compliant and should be traceable, but a single anomaly does not necessarily imply product recall if sufficient data are available to prove that the temperature variation has no impact on product quality.

An ulterior fundamental element in cold chain continuity is the perfect functioning of the chain of custody for the whole life cycle of the product, so that you have well-documented proofs regarding the subjects who – step after step, up to final consumption – handled the product.

At this point, it is worth mentioning the Cool Chain Quality Indicator (CCQI): established by Cool Chain Association (CCA) and Germanischer Lloyd (GL), it is an industrial standard which measures reliability, quality and performance in the so called temperature-critical logistics, to improve global cold chains coherence and continuity.

This standard uses a benchmarking system (a system with reference values) to assess transparent and comparable quality regulations. The company which requests the certification must identify each operation in which it manages temperature-sensitive products: for each of these operations, the processes are compared with the standard Master Table.

The standard ensures that a company can both carry out comparative analysis of its competitors and improve its own performance. The Master Tables tailored for each step of the cold chain represent guidelines which ensure that temperature-sensitive products will be delivered at the correct temperature so as to both allow market operators to execute a compliance check through advanced practices, and provide a quantitative evaluation of cold chain quality.

Keeping the cold chain undamaged is really important, because products can suffered many damages, among which structural degradation, nutritional and organoleptic quality loss, color loss, dents, microbial growth, culminating in the complete loss of all the characteristics that ensure its Food Safety and hence its edibility. Moreover, the interruption of the cold chain reduces product shelf-life and therefore it makes the expiry date indicated in the label factually untrue.

On the other hand, cold chain compliance entails the possibility to benefit from a quality product, a satisfied customer, higher demand for that product and more generally, a higher protection of public health. Many are the Countries that face difficulties in ensuring the access to safe and reliable food because of the lack of understanding, knowledge and investments in best practices and infrastructures dedicated to the cold chain.

This has indeed a direct impact on the quantity of Food&Beverage Loss, constituting an element upon which the attention of UN and FAO  has been focused with respect to sustainable development goals: almost 20% of global Food Waste is actually caused by issues in the cold chain (the engine is turned off, logistical operators do not comply 100% with HACCP prescriptions, the driver stops in sunny spots, …).

In any case, as we will see soon, logistical operators who work with the cold chain give a great contribution to the economy and the total workforce, since the industry is clearly growing and does not give signs of decline in the medium-term.

Cold chain numbers in Food&Beverage logistics 

The cold chain represents a quite considerable market share La catena del freddo rappresenta una quota di mercato considerevole with regards to Food&Beverage logistics.

According to a research, 2019’s growth estimate is 12,59%, between 2019 and 2023 there will be an increase in market value equal to 173,83 mld $, and about 37% of growth will come from APAC (Asia Pacific) region: as a result of a focus shifting from productivity increase to the availability of better transports and storage sites, the market has gained a fair amount of attention in Countries such as China and India. 

One of the main trends will be the employment of IoT devices to enhance cold chain monitoring: cold chain monitoring via IoT data loggers and the possibility to perform remotely the advanced management of environmental parameters for each single carrier, are applications of key importance for the industry and have opened new opportunities thanks to greater efficiency and visibility along the whole distribution chain at a product level.

Another study predicts that no later than 2025 the global market value for cold chain logistical operators will reach 447.50 mld $, with a 15,1% CAGR.

The growth is expected to be driven by technological progress in packaging, processing, perishable food storage and advanced traceability systems. The latter are the topic that we will now discuss.

Wenda: Information Management Hub per le supply chain del Food&Beverage

We at Wenda, an Italian startup supported by international investors, want to contribute with our technological innovations to solve some issues that burden Food&Beverage industry operators who carry out temperature-controlled operations. We developed Food Integrity Management Hub, a digital, yearly subscription Saas platform, dedicated to all the Food&Beverage actors that handle or manage perishable or sensitive products following cold chain prescriptions. The platform aims to turn supply chain control from a cost center to a competitive edge, managing all the product integrity information (e.g. cold chain, chemical analysis, traceability, expiry date, shelf-life).

It is quick to implement, easy to use, cross-chain and cross-device. Wenda Food Integrity Management Hub delivers:

  • Overview of integrity analytics and points in which cold chains risk to be interrupted;
  • Differential access levels to journey data, to share them real-time with clients, logistics and quality departments, insurance companies, regulatory bodies;
  • In-cloud wallet for the upload and the sharing of travel papers, temperature data and product quality certifications, for each shipment or storage;
  • Integration and interoperability with different traceability systems and data loggers, which are constantly evolving. 

As a company, Wenda was accelerated by UniCredit, Maersk, Digital Magics and Intesa Sanpaolo.

For any information, to get to know us better, or to schedule a demo with Wenda Information Management Hub, we invite you to visit our website.