Crisis and opportunities in the cold chain industry
Oct , 29 2020

Crisis and opportunities in the cold chain industry

The cryogenic work industry is "heating up rapidly." With people's increasingly strict food safety management, increased requirements for process transparency, and increasing concerns about food waste, cold chain storage and distribution have become particularly important. The temperature-controlled supply chain is spread all over the world, delivering a variety of perishable food, beverages and medical supplies to the international market. With the increase in free trade and the orderly expansion of the global food retail industry, the food industry has begun a round of vigorous development.

Market analysis predicts that by 2026, the global cold chain industry will grow at an annual rate of 17.9%, reaching more than US$585 billion, of which the Asia-Pacific region will account for most of this growth. As consumers seek higher-quality and fresher organic agricultural products, rising incomes in emerging markets in Asia and other regions have greatly increased the opportunities for cold chain investment.

In addition to this existing growth trend, the covid-19 is increasing the demand for "refrigerated trucks to transport perishable goods." At the same time, the epidemic may also lead to an urgent need to vaccine cold transportation around the world under temperature control in the future. This poses a challenge to cold chain suppliers who are pursuing energy conservation and environmental protection in the industry, and their operational efficiency.

The unknown world of the epidemic cold chain

Of course, the current crisis brings challenges. In response to sudden "blockade restrictions", cold chains packaging are not well prepared in many parts of the world. Cold chains are panic-started, and business closures and social isolation continue to emerge. Supply chains of all sizes have to respond quickly to sudden demand shocks: For some operators, this is a step into uncharted territory.

The soaring retail sales of food and beverages, as well as the growing demand for commodities such as medical supply chain and protective equipment. However, due to the temporary closure of the doors of many food factories, the virus has changed the long-distance and local food delivery methods, as customers’ buying habits have changed, and fresh food orders in hotels, restaurants and cafes have basically dried up. This makes wholesalers pile up perishable goods in warehouses. Faced with these new challenges, the cold chain plays an indispensable role in maintaining the important circulation of refrigerated goods.

Cold chain helps keep food and vaccines fresh

In addition to these urgent needs, refrigerated transportation remains crucial in vaccine development and distribution. As of July 2020, there are 38 COVID-19 candidate vaccines under development worldwide. If a drug is successfully developed and delivered, billions of doses of the drug will need to be mass-produced and quickly distributed around the world.

From leaving the manufacturer to reaching the medical facility or laboratory, most vaccines need to be transported and stored under constant temperature conditions. Exposure to excessive heat or cold can cause loss of efficacy, which means that the vaccine must be discarded. The same controls apply to the raw materials used to produce vaccines.

This is where the role of the cold chain becomes crucial. The latest transportation refrigeration devices, such as the plug-in hybrid system of the latest thermal system on the market, are manufactured to keep the temperature of the cargo compartment constant even if the vehicle is parked or stationary and the engine is idling. The system automatically switches between plug-in charging, alternator power and battery power, and between three power modes to ensure that the required temperature is maintained without relying on the driver. Compared with conventional units, these units require a 54% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions during 24-hour operation.

Most modern cold chain equipment comply with the United Nations ATP Agreement, which promotes the safety and best practices of international transportation of perishable food by harmonizing rules and regulations applicable to refrigerated transportation. Although there is no unified global drug transportation system, cold chain suppliers and operators must comply with good distribution practices guidelines to ensure that the quality and integrity of drugs are maintained.

Medical Cold chain technology in remote areas

Maintaining storage temperature requires a solid energy infrastructure and a stable power supply. If it is a challenge to distribute and store temperature-sensitive vaccines on a large scale in developed economies, then when dealing with poorer and less developed regions in the world, There are other challenges. The remote communities in these places are not only difficult to reach, but also the use of energy infrastructure to generate electricity may be limited, which is essential for temperature control when storing vaccines.

According to reports, solar cold chain equipment and vaccine refrigerators are currently being developed. These equipment can overcome power peaks and enable some communities that are off the grid to store vaccines. However, some low-income and middle-income countries have insufficient cold chain systems, and in some cases they even do not exist. To solve this problem, international organizations such as the League for Immunization are working to strengthen the vaccine cold chain system in many developing countries.

From remote communities to prosperous cities, the need for efficient, transparent and reliable cold chain distribution and storage has never been more important. In addition to maintaining the supply of basic materials, global governments are helping to improve food security and reduce waste, while also enabling medical supplies to reach their destinations safely, so the cold chain is particularly important now.

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