Frozen food is gaining prominence in international trade with the urban population increasingly preferring easy-to-prepare foods. From fruits and vegetables, dairy products, bakery (such as bread, jams, and frozen pizza crusts etc), meat and seafood, confectionaries, frozen desserts and exotic imports, to ready-to-cook snack items like french fries, the frozen food sector is expanding to include a variety of foods that are catering to restaurants, cloud kitchens and retail segments.

With the rapid changes in the modern urban lifestyle, especially after COVID, it is not a surprise that the global frozen food market is projected to grow to USD 385.04 billion in 2028 at a CAGR of 5.98% during the 2021-2028 period.

According to IMARC Group, the frozen food market in India to reach INR 353.3 Billion by 2028, exhibiting a growth rate (CAGR) of 16% during 2023-2028. Within this, the Indian ice cream market size, valued at USD 3.01 billion in 2022, is expected to grow at a CAGR of 15% between 2023 and 2028, to reach a value of approximately USD 6.96 billion by 2028.

Why is a robust cold chain is vital for the growth of the canned and frozen food sector?

However, there continues to be many challenges in terms of adequate handling and processing of frozen and canned foods, especially during storage and transportation, making it vital that a robust, tech enabled and seamless cold supply chain is developed to support the growth of the sector, as mentioned above. Some of these challenges plaguing the sector are as follows:

  • Maintaining different temperatures for different products: Storing frozen foods at optimal temperatures consistently is quite a challenge. Even if storage facilities manage to adhere to the requisite temperatures, inefficient handling during transportation can cause damage to the product.

    Inefficient career vehicles, unskilled staff and delivery agents, conventional storage equipment like ice boxes and dry ice instead of well-equipped reefer vehicles, can all cause compromises in temperature levels making food unfit for consumption.

  • Food safety concerns: Inefficient storage or transport conditions pose threat for not only damages but also a risk of cross-contamination and bacterial growth.

    Especially during summer months, there are higher chances of the smaller temperature fluctuations to cause massive contamination, given the humidity and severity of the natural environment.

    Even slight exposure to the same can often render the entire batch harmful, leading to bigger losses and healthcare risks

The need for maintaining a constant temperature for the sustainability of frozen foods is a major concern.

However, most challenges faced by the frozen food sector can be solved with a robust cold chain infrastructure.

Here is how a cold chain infrastructure can drive the growth of the frozen food sector:

1. Efficient and consistent storage environment

Leveraging tech enabled solutions that are linked with AI and ML, it is possible to create and monitor temperature-controlled storage environments for various frozen food products, including vegetables, fruits, ice creams and desserts and even raw materials.

Technologies like IoT help maintain the ideal temperature and humidity, enabling businesses to maintain the integrity of the chain and identify potential weaknesses. Cold storage facilities equipped with remote monitoring systems can communicate logs and events to businesses.

IoT provides live data about product temperature and location, facilitating better analysis and decision-making.

2. Reduced losses due to wastage

Businesses often face huge losses due to spoilage. Fluctuations in temperature can render the product unfit for consumption.

Consistently maintaining temperatures during both, storage and transportation, is vital to reduce damage and thus wastage of Frozen foods.

Technologies like automation contribute to enhanced productivity, picking accuracy, and faster fulfillment. These also contribute to food security by preventing unnecessary food wastage and losses.

3. Effective distribution

Efficient distribution is an inseparable part of the cold supply chain infrastructure and effective and tech enabled reefer vehicles go a long way in facilitating smooth transportation and distribution of frozen foods.

Specialized distribution centers dedicated to supporting the effective storage of frozen foods play a critical role in the effective distribution, especially for products being shipped internationally.

With dedicated micro-warehouses and a robust fleet of reefer vehicles with live tracking and tracing, allow end-to-end visibility helping businesses verify if the products are being transported at the right temperatures and making it to the destination on time, without damages to the products.

4. Enhanced food quality and customer satisfaction

In line with the above, a robust and efficient cold supply chain can do wonders in preserving the freshness and quality of frozen foods, including desserts, and maintaining temperature integrity helps extending the shelf life.

This in turn, helps create better customer experience and delight, good brand repute and increased regulatory compliance and fewer disputes and liabilities.

Cold storage and transportation infrastructure is indeed the backbone of the frozen food sector. It guarantees improved product safety, quality, and integrity. Cold chain infrastructure ensures access to new markets and increased opportunities for imports and exports for frozen food businesses.

With the cold chain infrastructure continuously evolving and innovations enabling frozen food businesses to cater to consumer demands more efficiently, the industry will reach new heights in the future.