A major trend in the cold storage industry today is a push toward expanding value-added services — additional, non-core services cold storage companies can offer clients. As client needs change, many operators of traditional warehouse spaces are looking to diversify and create new revenue streams.
But what options are out there? Let’s look at the current trends in value-added services being offered by cold storage operators.
1. Portion Packaging
Whether it’s produce from the field or poultry from a processor, product typically arrives at a cold storage facility in bulk. Portion packaging is a service where product can be broken down from a bulk format and repackaged into smaller containers before moving into cold storage. In the case of produce, this process can also include washing, mixing and blending the product before it’s repackaged.
Portion packing also allows for product packaging to be customized to a particular retailer. This weigh-label-price process formats or repositions the product into branded packaging so that it’s ready to be stocked on store shelves when sent out to retailers.
Offering portion packaging on-site allows your customers to skip the step of sending their product to a separate repacker, which can be more convenient and cost-effective. In my experience, this is one of the most popular value-added services being offered by cold storage operators recently.
2. High Pressure Processing (HPP) and High-Temperature Short-Time Heating (HTST)
Another service a cold storage facility can offer is retort packaging, which is typically used for juices, milk and meat products. This achieves sterilization in a cost-effective manner within a shorter time period and with minimal product damage. The process involves conveying the vacuum-sealed product through specialized process equipment to sterilize it and kill microorganisms. The product is then palletized and can be moved into cold storage for later distribution.
Processors of deli meats, hot dogs and similar products can use this technology to extend shelf life for peak demand periods and to assure food safety. Stellar’s project involvement as designer and integrator of equipment and product conveyance generally includes:
- Equipment procurement and installation
- Process controls scope of work
- Utility infrastructure and connection
3. Blast Freezing
Similar to retort packaging, traditional blast freezing is a method to extend shelf life and prepare for seasonal demand in advance while maintaining food safety, color rendition and product quality. This process involves deep freezing product in a blast cell using time and mechanical methods of low-temperature refrigeration in conjunction with increased air velocity. This method optimizes energy by freezing product slowly and allowing warm product to freeze in an isolated environment instead of in a larger refrigerated space (which would raise the temperature of that environment and other already cold products).
4. Custom Pallet Building
This is another service cold storage operators can provide to save their customers time and money. Typically a full pallet of similar product comes into a cold storage warehouse, but it doesn’t have to go out that way. By reorganizing pallets with the mix of products that an end user prefers, a warehouse can deliver mixed pallets with a variety of items. Compare this to the traditional method of delivering multiple bulk pallets to a retailer’s warehouse for them to sort, re-palletize and distribute to their own stores.
If you want to get even more ideas and learn more about best practices in cold storage and distribution, I encourage you to to attend Global Cold Chain Expo 2017 in Chicago from June 13-15. As a board member of the Global Cold Chain Alliance, the sponsor of the expo, I’ll be at the event along with some other members of the Stellar team to network, learn and answer questions.
Stellar is a fully integrated firm focused on planning, design, pre-construction, construction, refrigeration, mechanical & utility, building envelope, and total operations & maintenance services worldwide. Visit the company's blog at www.stellarfoodforthought.net or learn about its projects at stellar.net.