The fresh supply chain is operating at increasing levels to meet the growing demand for fruit and vegetable. As more consumers embrace a healthy diet and lifestyle, farm produce becomes the number one source of food. For logistics managers, warehouse supervisors and store managers, there is a growing pressure to source, store, deliver and display fresh vegetables and fruit quickly and safely.
What Are the Key Challenges for the Fresh Supply Chain?
Food, by definition, is a very sensitive product. It needs to be handled, packed and delivered with maximum hygiene and within specific temperatures. Fresh fruit and vegetables are even more sensitive than other types of food products. They need protection from crushing and denting. They need ventilation to prevent wilting. And they need special packaging that allows liquids to drain, so that the products do not develop mold or fungi.
At the same time, there is an increased pressure from consumer groups to disclose all the information pertaining to the products, such as: place of origin, harvest date, whether the crops were treated with pesticides or come from organic farms.
Preventing Loss and Damage from the Very Start of the Supply Chain
Looking at the typical journey of any farm product, Logistic Packaging experts identify the first potential point of damage straight on the field or in the orchard. Collecting and storing fresh produce in bulk can lead to significant losses without proper worker training and adequate packaging materials.
For instance, the old wooden crates are now considered unsafe for fruit and vegetables. They can chip and dent the produce, accumulate liquids and nurture mold and fungi. By contrast, rigid large containers for harvesting fresh produce have smooth inner walls with perforations that offer optimal protection and allow ventilation.
Be Transparent in Communications with All the Partners in the Fresh Supply Chain
Significant loss of fresh produce takes place during transportation and storage in regional warehouses. The fault does not belong 100% to warehouse and shipping companies. Unless they are made aware ahead of time what kind of products they are expected to handle and deliver, they cannot ensure the ideal conditions for storage and shipping.
These conditions include:
- Increased attention to the employees’ personal hygiene
- Using adequate packaging materials – plastic crates for fruit and vegetables and cleanroom pallets;
- Paying special attention to the cleaning and sanitizing process for the packaging materials;
- Ensuring adequate temperature in cold rooms and cold trailers.
Adapt Your Replenishment Model
One size does not fit all in the fresh supply chain. Your company needs to develop specific practices and replenishment models for each type of product. For example, carrots and potatoes have a longer shelf life and do not require the same special conditions for packaging and handling as tomatoes, lettuce or grapes.
This means that the fresh supply chain for potatoes can be longer and the replenishment schedule more relaxed. For tomatoes and lettuce, the golden rule is to go from farm to shelf in the shortest time and without any dwell time.
Coordinate Delivery Times with Store Managers
Store managers know the peak hours when their supermarket is full of customers and all the POS stations need to be manned. This is not a good time to make deliveries, as employees cannot be spared from other tasks to unload and arrange the fresh fruit and vegetables in the cold room or directly on shelves.
Coordination within the fresh supply chain is essential. Warehouse managers, shipping managers and store managers must work together and determine the ideal delivery times to keep the shelves properly replenished and minimize blockages.
Pay Attention to Cold Storage
Cold storage is essential for fresh fruit and vegetables. Many things can go wrong if the storage/transportation partner cannot ensure the precise required temperatures. At the same time, using inadequate packaging materials can lead to further loss.
All the professional packaging solutions produced by Logistic Packaging have the temperature tolerances clearly stated on their data sheet. Thus, you will always know if a specific model of plastic crates, pallets or containers is recommended for use in cold storage or not.
Whenever you are in doubt, the Logistic Packaging consultants can help you choose the best packaging solutions for the fresh supply chain. Don’t rely on trial and error, send us an email or schedule a live Skype chat with our packaging specialists!