Supply chain issues and traceability are hot topics across the food industry, from manufacturers to retailers to restaurants, and more efforts are being made to improve the supply chain and, ultimately, make food safer for consumers. Initiatives including the U.N. Global Compact and BSR’s traceability guide and GS1 US’s Retail Grocery Initiative highlight issues such as sustainability and visibility, but there is an additional concern for certain members of the food industry who have to consider things like refrigerated trucks and melting points — those who work with frozen foods and refrigerated supply chains.
The biggest challenge when it comes to working through the supply chain of refrigerated and frozen foods is managing supply and demand, according to Peter Riccio, vice president of milk procurement and internal farms for Horizon Organic.
Because milk supply fluctuates based on several factors including cows’ environments, health, feed and farms, those factors can’t always be controlled, he said. The real challenge is having the ability to change inventory levels quickly to meet demand with products like milk that have short shelf lives.
“Based on this, forecasting supply and demand is critical for effectively managing our supply chain,” Riccio said.
To meet the challenges associated with the refrigerated supply chain, companies must innovate in addition to effectively forecasting supply and demand, according to Riccio. For example, Horizon is working to develop products with longer shelf lives, such as yogurt milk powder and flex powder, which fortify California milk, and Horizon Mac & Cheese and crackers that use organic cheese.
“Currently, the biggest trend is innovating to develop products and processes that can lead to products with longer shelf life,” Riccio said.
Technology is also an important part of the refrigerated supply chain. Horizon employs fluid milk processing that includes ultra-pasteurized and aseptic technology to give products a longer shelf life. The company also works with tank specialists for farms that produce raw materials, Riccio said.
According to Riccio, a good refrigerated supply chain starts with good, quality products. He also said that traceable paperwork is critical, as is accurate forecasting. Companies that deal with refrigerated and frozen foods should always be on the lookout for ways to improve their supply chains, Riccio added, and they should shore up partnerships with suppliers to ensure quality products from farm to retailer.
“We’re always looking for ways to improve the management of our supply chain, which can lead to efficiencies in the business,” he said.
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