Navigating The New Reality in the Frozen Food Supply Chain

By: Alison Bodor, President and CEO, American Frozen Food Institute

Last week, AFFI hosted its first virtual Supply Chain Solutions Summit to provide the frozen food supply chain with a platform to connect, collaborate and learn from industry experts and each other. Today more than ever, there is an opportunity to build upon the resiliency of the frozen food supply chain and emerge stronger, together. Here are the four key takeaways that emerged from AFFI’s Supply Chain Solutions Summit:

1. Embracing technology is essential for continued category growth.
According to our keynote speaker Scott Likens, Emerging Technology leader at PwC, for supply chains to be more efficient companies must understand how technology connects to and influences our surrounding environment. Technology provides companies with the ability to collect information on how things are working now and then use that data to improve performance through machine learning. It starts with automating transport, implementing augmented reality, blockchain and tracing throughout the supply chain. Emerging technology presents an opportunity for the frozen food industry to invest in technologies that could allow the industry to be more efficient over time.

2. Direct to consumer success is possible for any company with the right partners.
The strength of a direct to consumer relationship is that it allows companies just launching a brand to create their own narrative. There is a lot that goes into running a successful e-commerce brand, and during AFFI’s summit, we heard from three companies who have experienced what it takes to grow their brand using this channel. Finding and maintaining a relationship with the right partners to efficiently scale up your business is critical to success. A robust third-party logistics (3PL) network can manage the logistical and delivery aspects of product delivery to help you expand the geographic reach of your business while you expand the relationship with your customer.

3. Pivoting quickly when there are supply chain disruptions is easier with diversified sourcing.

Forecasting your raw material and packaging needs can be a challenge, especially when you are at the mercy of your vendors. COVID-19 exemplified that challenge for many manufacturers the last few months. It’s crucial to understand and break down the complexities in the supply chain and have multiple sourcing options at the ready. This will allow your company to quickly pivot and make decisions to streamline your approach. Ask the question, is the supply chain for this SKU flexible enough to survive the next pandemic? Ultimately, knowing your suppliers and understanding where they are producing your inputs is key to forecasting your future.

4. High demand for cold storage space is here to stay and construction is taking longer.
The coronavirus has affected cold storage construction and renovations in 2020. With increased demand for warehouse space, rent is at record levels. Additionally, the extra worker safety precautions require more steps for construction crews and mean longer project builds. Additionally, we will see automation increase in cold storage facilities to fulfill orders and make up for a shortage of workers. I encourage you to read this article from Refrigerated and Frozen Foods Magazine for more insights into the future of cold storage construction.

Overall, the global pandemic has disrupted our daily lives and brought new challenges and opportunities to the frozen food industry. I hope this virtual event was valuable for your company to gain key insights into how the frozen food supply chain has changed since the pandemic and what the future holds. If you are looking for more frozen food industry insights, I encourage you to attend our Leadership Conference Virtual Sessions beginning on Thursday, November 5 at 2 p.m. EDT.

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