Challenges in delivering cold chain products

Gopi G, Regional Business Manager – South, Snowman Logistics

 

When it comes to maintaining the quality of the product right from the source to its destination, an efficient cold chain strategy is the only way. Thermal and refrigerated packaging methods in the cold chain, effectively keep all products fresh and sealed. In India, the cold chain has been seeing visible progress in horticulture produce, meat and confectionaries over the past decade.

Based on application, the cold chain market is bifurcated into fruits and vegetables, bakery and confectionery, dairy and frozen desserts, meat, fish and seafood, and others. Cold chain plays a major role in the storage and transport of fish, meat and seafood products, as they need refrigeration right after slaughter, during processing, and also during packaging. Meat, fish & seafood accounted for the largest market share due to increasing consumer preference for packaged food products.

Considering the temperature range, the cold chain market is further divided into chilled and frozen. With an increasing demand for perishable foods, the trade in the cold chain is expected to grow exponentially in the near future.

Even with the constant conflict between supply and demand, there are drawbacks that the cold chain industry in India faces every day. Not only do the goods get affected but the wastage of products keeps on growing.

A few examples of the ground reality:

  • A decline in the quality of food: Although the distribution is good, mismanagement in supply chain logistics causes confectioneries to deteriorate. The quality of the products starts declining as soon as they are stored in the warehouses or vehicles and it further goes down when it reaches the wholesaler. Storing in direct sunlight affects the texture and taste of the products. Chocolates and sweets start tasting different in different regions due to the decline in quality.
  • Lack of technology: This has led to the depreciation of meat through the cold chain industry. Consumers need meat while it’s fresh so that it can be consumed on the same or a day after it has been bought. The absence of efficient tech worsens the quality and eventually leads to wastage or even health concerns. Technologies like GPS and sensors can monitor the trucks centrally to track the temperature and position of so as to ensure better control of product quality.
  • Supply chain inconsistency: While a lot of fishermen tend to send the products all over India, the unavailability of continuous supply chain wanes the quality and eventually leads to national waste. The discrepancies in the temperature in warehouses and vehicles fluctuate the temperature and the seafood starts to disintegrate.
  • Insufficient infrastructure: Due to minimal infrastructure in India, supermarkets tend to sell the products in bulk by launching schemes. As the product quality starts declining, the improvement in the supply chain management will lead to a reduction in these solutions.
  • Online supermarket crisis: As the liking for online supermarkets increases, their efforts to provide fresh groceries also complicates. Products like vegetables, fruits, dairy, icecreams, and butter go through numerous stages of logistics. There has been phenomenal growth in the dairy products market which includes icecream and butter. Due to infrastructure incapacity, these products worsen due to fluctuating temperatures. These companies often use thermal boxes to maintain the temperature throughout the product’s journey. This eventually leads to high logistics cost which is one of the consequences of an incompetent business model.

The cold chain logistics companies in India are everywhere, the Western, Southern, Eastern, Northern, and Central regions. Cold chain logistics are categorized into two sections:

  • Temperature Controlled Vehicles
  • Temperature Controlled Warehouses

The technical mandates employed are quite incompatible for Indian conditions resulting in failure of reaching the optimal performance of standard refrigerating systems. Insufficient labour knowledge and training in handling temperature delicate products are also a reason including the cost involved.

Cold storages require a stable power supply. This is an age-old problem in India. Recurrent power cuts are a major issue of distress in India. These companies have to invest distinctly in power back-ups which escalates the capital investment requirement.

Despite the fact that retail cold chain as a sector is presently struggling to be more efficient, there is a lot of scope for improvement with the aid of operational and technology level changes that can be brought into the whole system. While the government is taking up many initiatives for the furtherance of the cold chain industry, it might be a good idea for traders to look at long term gains rather than opting for low operating costs.

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