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Keeping it Fresh Between Farm and Fork

The South African food retail industry is estimated to be worth around R460 billion, despite this, alarmingly roughly 33% of all food is lost between production and consumption, creating waste and impacting on food security. With the local population expected to grow by approximately 2 million every five years this industry, and associated cold chain suppliers, need to evolve to provide elevated levels of support in them region. The key to the missing produce is not only within agriculture but the supply chain. Between farm and fork, an uninterrupted temperature control regime is vital to food preservation and the quality that the end consumer receives.

According to Tyrone Rennie, Executive: Solutions Development and Marketing at supply chain specialist Barloworld Logistics, the FMCG and cold chain industries are interdependent and would be well served to review fundamental processes to minimise wasted product along the value chain aggressively.

“Food security is a reality; as is wasted produce”, explains Rennie. “While the agricultural industry is poised to come under pressure to meet escalating demand, a dual responsibility lies with manufacturers and distributors to ensure that the hard earned produce is not lost along the way.”

Food wastage through incorrect handling is costly for the industry, he says, placing a strain on both waste management and the satisfaction of consumer demand. The risk of ill-maintained temperature control regimes is three-fold impacting on the industry’s ability to deliver value to their triple-bottom-line strategies of people, planet and profit.

“The incorrect handling of the food impacts the profitability of the industry thanks to the discarding of spoilt product, and the cost of waste disposal is both financial and environmental”, says Rennie. “Brand loyalty is key to individual players growing market share, and at its crux, an effective cold-chain allows products to be sold in the quality intended thereby offering a competitive advantage.”

With the advent of smart technology, the cold-chain industry is reaching new levels of performance. Advanced real-time temperature monitoring, together with end-to-end visibility is allowing for stricter maintenance. Innovative changes to traditional models are creating networks that are more agile and are opening up opportunities for faster turn-around times, new market entry and expanded reach within the local economy.

“The onus lies on supply chain companies to ensure that everything possible is done to utilise new technologies in support of the basic principles of an excellent cold chain”, says Rennie. “There is enough food produced, and other economic issues aside, it is the responsibility of all stakeholders to collaborate in seamless, effective processes that deliver produce, as intended, to every retailer and dinner table in the nation.”

Single cold chain suppliers increase visibility, and therefore accountability, and as we move into the future, these factors are likely to become paramount when enabling the objectives of less food waste, better product quality, and ultimately satisfied consumers.