Food logistics encompasses the processing, packaging, shipping, and delivery of all food and beverage goods and items that customers may utilize. Simply put, food logistics is the movement of food products from one location to another. Not all warehousing and logistics companies offer this service, so it is important to know what to look for when your business is seeking a food logistics partner.
Food logistics involves three major areas: transportation, storage, and distribution. Not only must the logistics issues of all three be addressed, but it is also necessary to ensure that all three areas take safety, such as climate control and cross-contamination, into consideration.
Incorrect management of these things can lead to an increased chance of food waste and spoilage. Perhaps the most important elements to consider for food logistics beyond safety involve capacity and optimized routes that ensure on-time delivery.
Understanding the Food Supply Chain
Food supply chains can be complicated, with several touchpoints that shippers must continuously manage. Understanding the various parts of the supply chain is important for recognizing their role and ensuring compliance with all regulations and best practices.
Taking a look at each of these touchpoints will help you to better understand the complexities and challenges facing food logistics companies in our modern day.
Production: This is where things begin. Whether the food is farmed or produced, this step of the process is done with guidelines in mind and an understanding of the end product each food item will be a part of. There are many regulations in place to safeguard food quality, aesthetics, and safety.
Handling and Storage: This phase occurs before the product is transported. Fruits and vegetables are a great example of how each product has its own process: Some produce must be washed before being packaged for shipping, while others must be placed directly into bags to begin their journey. The method of handling and storage is determined by the type of food and its final destination.
Processing and Packaging: Before they are packaged, all food products must meet food safety criteria. Steps are in place to ensure this happens as it should. After receiving approval from the quality assurance phase on the production line, the food product is packaged and ready to be transported.
Distribution: Shipping is the final step after the product has gone through the other phases. Distribution includes shipping, warehousing, and delivery to end retailers.
The food logistics supply chain has recently been impacted by a variety of factors. Food logistics has evolved as a result of events like COVID, the Great Recession, and even natural disasters. Considering these changes, it’s no wonder that food logistics is an evolving thing, as the industry works to keep up with changes in the world and how consumers spend their money.
Food Logistics Safety
All food logistics entities have a duty and responsibility to make sure they consistently abide by all regulations, the right chain of custody, and the applicable laws governing the transportation of food and beverage products. This is especially important because municipal laws can differ from those set by the federal government.
Food logistics facilities must hold specialized certifications demonstrating that they offer a secure environment for food transportation and storage. Food logistics standards were created to prevent the general population from consuming contaminated food and beverages.
Every company that manufactures, processes, or stores food or beverages must register with the FDA, be subject to inspections every three years, and accept a set of regulations. Third-party audits of food grade warehousing include specifications for quality checks, pest management, and even subtle details like moisture and temperature monitoring.
The FDA and USDA oversee Safe Quality Food (SQF), one of the most popular food certifications. HACCP is another common certification that a quality food logistics company may have. HACCP is a management method that ensures food safety by analyzing and controlling biological, chemical, and physical hazards from the production, procurement, and handling of raw materials to the manufacture, distribution, and consumption of the final product.
Time Sensitivity in Food Logistics
Fruit, meat, dairy, baked products, and every ingredient that goes into them are all subject to a clock that starts ticking as soon as it leaves the processing facility and continues ticking until it reaches your shopping cart. While following temperature control procedures is an important part of maintaining freshness, time is against you. As a result, food manufacturers need to make sure they have dependable, rapid transportation to get fresh foods to their destinations quickly so that retailers, restaurants, and consumers can continue to enjoy them in their freshest form.
Many forms of transportation are used to transport food. Road, sea, air, and train are a few of them. Trucking, however, is the most popular technique and accounts for the bulk (70.5%) of food transportation in the United States. Prior to COVID, shipment deliveries could be handled via a conventional logistics strategy. But, recent disruptions have altered that by raising the demand for flexibility and options like quick delivery. To accommodate the demand for more last-minute deliveries, smaller distributors who handle “last-mile delivery” have emerged, and hybrid routing techniques are now available.
A quality food logistics provider will have solutions to meet the needs of their customers. This may include using multiple forms of transportation to ensure the fastest, freshest, and safest delivery.
Perishables in Food Logistics
While not all food logistics involve perishable goods that have limited windows of time, given that the greatest risk in the food and beverage supply chain stems from the temperature and time-sensitive nature of food products, it is essential to comprehend where these risks originate and how they are driving industry-wide change.
There are a variety of factors affecting the capacity of food logistics companies to deliver goods on schedule.
- Cross-contamination of food products
- Foodborne pathogen-associated illness
- Monetary sanctions for regulatory violations
- Retailers’ denial of shipments
- Returns and Chargebacks
- Dissatisfied consumers due to depleted stock
As you might imagine, it is essential to install temperature monitoring technology in order to have real-time visibility in the event that something goes wrong with refrigerated transport or a shipment is left outside. In addition, it is crucial to know how your loads are being transported and to have shippers who are aware of how to prevent cross-contamination.
Technology in Food Logistics
Technology should be one of the primary areas of attention for food and beverage companies. Indeed, food logistics is one of the many industries that have benefited from the remarkable technological advancements of recent years. Real-time visibility and tracking have evolved, providing food logistics companies and customers with live updates on the location and status of their goods. Temperature logging, which utilizes an electronic device that stores temperature observations and retains the data for analysis, has also benefited from technological advancements.
When it comes to on-time delivery, real-time tracking is essential to determine if your products are delayed for any reason along their travels. All of this insight enables food logistics managers to make on-the-fly modifications to prevent numerous instances of food spoiling or food waste.
By adopting cutting-edge technologies such as analytics, automation, and artificial intelligence, businesses may overcome some of their industry’s most formidable obstacles. Analytics can aid in making more prudent selections. Automation and AI can alleviate labor shortages by utilizing data to optimize route planning and save time and resources. In fact, some reports indicate that AI in logistics will exceed $6.5 billion in 2023.
Selecting a Food Logistics Partner
Outsourcing the transportation and storage of your goods to a food logistics expert is not just about avoiding the need to manage food logistics; rather, it is about leveraging the collective value of a partner who can help your business expand its vision and minimize dangers.
Consider the following advantages of outsourcing the management and execution of your food logistics:
- The capacity to concentrate on your business, rather than logistics
- Reduced prices related to greater purchasing power
- Relatively simple access to infrastructure
- Superior scalability and adaptability
- Knowledge of food logistics
- Quality assurance safeguards
- Reduced complexity in managing fleet assets
- Data-driven decision-making
Food and beverage supply chain failures can literally cost lives. Fortunately, your company may create a turnkey approach to handling beverage and food logistics by understanding the aforementioned factors and collaborating with an industry professional.
There are numerous ways in which a food logistics partner might facilitate the operations of food and beverage companies. Established and reputable food logistics providers, such as Murphy Logistics, can assist you in navigating the world of perishable and nonperishable food logistics due to their vast experience and knowledge in food logistics.
With over two decades of experience, Murphy Logistics has expanded our 3PL logistics solutions to include 14 locations with a total of 2.8 million square feet of bulk, rack, and food-grade storage. This has allowed us to deliver not only extensive knowledge and great attention to detail, but consistent high-quality results when it comes to food logistics. Learn how we can help you upgrade your food logistics solutions by speaking with our team and discussing your project needs.