Multiple industries, including agriculture, manufacturing, and healthcare, strongly rely on cold chain logistics to safely store and transport perishables. Today, the need for such services keeps increasing due to changing consumer demand, trends like “from farm to fork,” and the necessity for new drugs and vaccines. Let’s look closer at industry sectors that need cold chains the most.
Cold chain in the food industry
Storing and transporting perishable food products is the oldest and most obvious cold chain use case, originating centuries ago to avoid rot or mold. We all know from our middle school (and our own experience) that the quality of certain food categories degrades with time because of natural chemical reactions – reactions that can be slowed down with lower temperatures.
There are several categories of food that require different thermal conditions.
- Banana: Tropical fruits like bananas or pineapples undergo controlled ripening as they are transported, so they need a stable range of 12° to 14°C (53° to 57°F).
- Chill: Most vegetables, fruits, dairy products, and meat must be refrigerated around 2° to 4°C (35° to 39°F).
- Frozen: Meats, bread, cakes, and most other products that need freezing require temperatures between – 10° and -20°C (14° to -4°F).
- Deep-frozen: Seafood, ice cream, and some other items have to be deep-frozen or stay between –25° to – 30°C (-13° to -22°F).
Cold chain in pharmaceutics
The demand for cold chain logistics services in pharma has grown steadily over the last few years. The 2020 Biopharma Cold Chain Sourcebook predicts that this market will be worth $21.3 billion by 2024 (up from 2019’s $15.7 billion). Blood, stem cells, tissues, transplant organs, as well as diverse drugs and vaccines – all these items need a range of 2° to 8°C and sometimes down to -80°C. If the required temperature level is not maintained, such products can become useless or even harmful to patients.
Recently, billions of COVID-19 vaccines had to be spread out on a global scale – and they require a stable, ultra-low temperature of below -70°C (so do some others, including the Ebola vaccine). Besides, a large number of new drugs being approved by the US Food and Drug Administration is temperature sensitive as well. So, the need to develop proper cold chain infrastructure to maintain required conditions at all stages is higher than ever.
Typically, if pharma goods have to be shipped urgently, they are transported by air. However, if time is not critical, ocean transportation is preferred because it’s cheaper and safer (i.e., less subject to temperature breaches).
Author: Danish Mairaj, CISCOM, PMP