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Don’t get left out in the cold this Christmas

06 August 2017

Stuart Hancock says that food companies need to plan well ahead to ensure their cold storage requirements are covered for busy periods such as Christmas. 

It is important to plan ahead when it comes to cold store requirements. As with most organised operations, it’s all in the planning. In cold storage operations space is always at a premium in the last month of the year.  Manufacturers cannot simply rely on capacity being available for their products in the run up to Christmas and failing to think ahead can result in increased costs. The best solution is to find a facility early on in the year, with freezing and up-tempering facilities. Manufacturers of chilled products will be at most risk.

it is important to customer-focussed and to have a good understanding of consumer trends and demands too.  Christmas 2016 generated positive sales and profit for many in the food sector, but with the rise in inflation and the leaving of the European Union starting to reverberate in the food shopping aisles, Christmas 2017 may paint a very different picture. 

According to a blog post by Richard Perks, of consumer research organisation Mintel, supermarkets enjoyed a buzzing Christmas in 2016 with price consistency and value for money being at the heart of their success. He claimed that ‘trust’ was a trend and pointed out that retailers need to re-establish this with their customers. To build that trust, retailers will need to demonstrate they can provide a reliable and responsive service during the festive season.  

Recurring themes 
Customer-food-to-go has been a recurring Christmas theme over recent years and it shows no signs of waning. Deloittes Retail Trends 2017 report states there will be even more growth in online shopping and with the increasing prominence of connected devices triggered by the Internet of Things (IoT) customer expectations will be further raised.  

Convenience will continue to be an important aspect of consumer decision making. It is imperative that manufacturers keep abreast of consumer behaviour as this is what ultimately drives retailers. Macro environmental issues are key in understanding how customers are behaving now and how they will in the future. 

Keep a close eye on costs. One of the biggest disrupters in the food supply chain is the up-tempering process. Using the latest microwave technology products can now be up-tempered to the required temperature in minutes instead of hours, allowing much tighter timescales to be worked towards. Rick Bestwick’s cold store up-tempering technology, for example is capable of up-tempering food from -18°C to -3°C in under three minutes – the same process usually taking around 14 hours to thaw without the microwave technology. The company works with BRC accredited processes and an unannounced auditing regime. The company carries out full product trials to confirm product parameters and ensure product quality is maintained through the up-tempering process.

It is no longer enough to simply be aware of seasonal demand. Action is needed earlier on in the year to avoid the new stresses that Christmas demand can bring. Finding a cold storage solution with value added services such as date coding, packing and delivery to the retailer can further alleviate traditional Christmas stress.

Stuart Hancock is director and co-owner at Rick Bestwick, a member of the Magnavale family of coldstore companies.

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