The New Normal in Cold Food Trends
The "new normal" for consumers and cold food processing providers is taking shape since the pandemic. We can see the direction of what consumers are choosing to eat and how it’s being purchased and distributed as well as the evolving direction of the cold foods processing industry.

Healthier Frozen Foods
According to RFF, many consumers are shifting to a healthier lifestyle post-pandemic. A recent study by the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) indicates that many consumers are seeking a wider selection of frozen foods made with fewer, and more premium, ingredients, particularly with dairy and pet food clients. The AFFI study showed more than half of shoppers are purchasing more frozen foods, 58% are purchasing different kinds of frozen foods and 57% are purchasing different brands than they did pre-pandemic. This shift is a driver for the increase in cold storage demand and is expected to maintain pace through 2022.

Our Love For Curbside & Delivery
Omnichannel is a method of combining the advantages of in-store shopping with the convenience of online to deliver a superior customer experience. Some of these seamless shopping experiences are available in-store, curbside pick-up, home delivery, etc. These conveniences have shifted consumer expectations. Immediate access to goods, 24-hour responsiveness and the ability to purchase in individual amounts is the norm.

Cold food processing providers have had to re-think their approach to food storage and logistics due to the push from the packaging and order fulfillment challenges from the shifts in demand. Many are choosing to produce finished goods that can be shipped directly to retailers or even customers.

For example, some protein processing clients are adding blast freezers at their plants to eliminate the burden of transporting product off site to be frozen and packaged before reaching a distribution center. Onsite blast freezing makes them more agile and able to respond to the changing environment.

Labor Shortage
What is one of the number 1 challenges for any cold food processing provider? Like many industries, it's workforce retention. Labor has been an issue for over a decade, add to it the Great Resignation and you have an industry in need of a new approach.

Automation is key. In the past, owners justified automation costs against existing labor. Now, with a diminishing labor pool, owners view automation as an essential element to sustaining the supply chain.

According to RFF, automation trends that have been successful for cold food processing providers tackling the labor shortage include:
Automated Storage & Retrieval Systems: Automatically retrieve stored products.
Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs): Driverless vehicles to move product through a plant.
Palletizers & De-Palletizers: Stack or remove cases on pallets.
Automated Packaging, Labeling & Wrapping: The last step in preparing finished goods for direct shipment to retailers or consumers.
These solutions move product efficiently and safely through the plant and allow for a more flexible, coordinated and trackable product flow.

Warehouse Management System
A warehouse management system, or WMS, consists of software and processes that allow organizations to control and administer warehouse operations from the time goods or materials enter a warehouse until they move out. While this technology has been around for years, new adaptations include the ability to connect with onsite automation equipment and implement algorithms that automate functions and gather data. Other benefits include better inventory management, reduced human error, cost and space efficiencies and faster order fulfillment.

Digital Supply Chain
The Internet of Things (IoT) describes physical objects (or groups of such objects) with sensors, processing ability, software, and other technologies that connect and exchange data with other devices and systems over the internet or other communications networks. IoT is rapidly changing supply chain management. Cold food processing providers have access to more data from more devices and software than ever before. This information has the potential to form an integrated network that gives owners a global view of inventory in real time. Augmented reality, artificial intelligence and machine learning are all on the horizon and expected to result in better decision making throughout the supply chain, from inventory and intralogistics to weather and delivery routes.

Carbon Neutrality
A study by Gartner, a technological research and consulting firm, found 85% of investors value environmental, social and governance criteria when making investments. This trend has pushed cold food processing providers to explore carbon neutrality as a way of engaging stakeholders. Carbon neutrality (or net zero carbon) encourages owners to change their behavior on high-emission activities. They can also offset emissions generated by their facilities by reducing them elsewhere. Carbon neutrality builds off the foundation put in place by the U.S. Green Building Council, which has been an industry standard for over a decade.

By adapting and staying on top of these industry trends, cold food processors can overcome disruption and remain competitive in 2022 and beyond.

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AutomationBlast freezerCarbon neutralityCold chainCold facilityCold storageFoodFreezingFrozen foodsIndustrial refrigerationLabor shortageOmnichannelRefrigerationTrendsWms