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Refrigerated supply chains, the next frontier!

Posted by Chris Spence, Manager, Refrigerated Operations on Aug 5, 2021 10:24:23 AM

In Culture, People, Refrigerated

Did you know that the first reefer units can be traced back to the 1800’s, when a cargo carrier would place ice and salt with temperature-sensitive goods as they were loaded onto train cars? This was obviously horribly inefficient, often leading to a majority of goods being spoiled in transit, and profitability dropping for these businesses. However, the industry’s future need was identified. Tools and processes were developed and improved, eventually creating the complex supply chain of temperature-sensitive goods that is so vital to our modern world of trade.

The talk of the town (well, when it comes to refrigerated freight) is nothing but growth! The industry worldwide is expected to grow at a 7.3-8.0% rate over the next decade, while in our direct (North American) market we can expect a 4% growth of revenues to US$ 12 billion over the next 5 years. Factors accounting for this growth include population growth, an increasing number of trade routes, rising demand in products such as pharmaceutical drugs, food and beverages, and e-commerce expanding into the grocery markets. Modern technology plays a large part, with freight now having the ability to successfully reach the customers final mile destination at a higher rate than ever before.

We can attest to this technology at Bison, and stand behind our business, striving to make sure our customers’ cold supply chains suffer minimal impact on the transport of their goods. This means less waste for the client, and more profitable futures in the form of partnerships. Improving our technology and growing with the industry will be important for Bison’s future growth, as both our domestic Canadian market and exports to the U.S. see an increasing demand. Match that up with increased imports from the U.S., and large food and beverage companies expecting to grow. This will push the need for an increased supply of refrigerated units. Refrigerated transportation drives these industries, which are massive markets in both Canada and the U.S.. In fact, for the U.S., this market totals 5% of their gross domestic product (GDP).

So we know that the market is poised for growth, and food and beverage growth is driving the future of our industry. We might ask ourselves what other opportunities exist for our refrigerated units. One quick-hitter that comes to mind is freight needing protection from freezing in the winter. Our reefers are versatile; though they are labelled as refrigerated, they can maintain almost any given product temperature. A refrigerated (reefer) unit can even be called upon to ship goods such as fine art pieces that need to be in a temperature-controlled environment to control humidity,. We can also look to the chemical and engineered product market for opportunities to work with new clients and help balance our network. Many chemicals need to be kept at an ambient temperature to prevent chemical reactions. What about tobacco products? In certain cases, even tobacco would need to be in humidity and temperature-controlled environments in order to preserve the quality and freshness of those favoured cigars. Similar to the industry motto “If you bought it, a truck brought it!” we can also say “If you ate, smoked, or viewed it, a reefer brought it” :P

The topics of discussion around refrigerated freight are vast, should we ship multi-temperature or single temperature (single dominates the market), what about intermodal/multimodal, yes! They too are all part of the enormous growth on the horizon. There are so many topics to discuss that I simply can’t fit them all into this one short article. It is obvious that refrigerated networks are going to be vital for any freight carrier’s future, the opportunities are many, the technologies are improving and with that will come more demand to ship goods in the most efficient manner possible. I’m excited for what our future holds as we have taken many proactive steps to be the model refrigerated carrier. How do you feel about the reefer industry? Are you excited? And if you’re not… well you should be!