I just returned from United Fresh, one of the major fresh produce shows in the US. The exhibit floor offered a complete range of interesting things from strawberry and orange growers to packaging equipment manufacturers, shipping pallet vendors and software and hardware companies.
As expected, a key discussion topic at the conference was tracking and tracing of perishable produce to address the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) and the Food Safety Modernization Act. I had several conversations with representatives of major brand companies, both produce growers and produce consumers, who are taking the initiative to improve management of the cold chain and protect their brand’s value. These companies see the risk of not ensuring that the produce they receive and sell is of high quality and safe for consumption. Increasingly these companies are becoming aware that in-transit temperature monitoring holds the key to ensuring product quality while also providing the data that they need to rapidly address potential recalls.
A representative of a major global hotel chain came by our booth. He mentioned that they monitor the temperature of perishables shipped to their hotel from distribution centers but the temperature monitoring device can’t be read when received and is sent back to corporate. He sees none of the information on the device so he has no way of knowing if the goods have been stored properly throughout shipment, leaving him in the dark and at risk of receiving and serving poor quality or potentially dangerous food. He was excited at the prospect of having the ability to get temperature data on-demand when he receives the goods on his loading dock.
First Hand Experience
We actually experienced this very problem at the show. For our exhibit display, we wanted to place one of our temperature monitoring tags in with some fruit. Some of my colleagues went to a major retailer and purchased several clamshells of strawberries. When we got back from the store and opened up the clamshells, we saw something like this:
This retailer should have known better! These berries were already rotting on the store shelf! Remaining shelf life: ZERO. If nothing else, it proved our point that it’s critical for retailers to monitor temperature in-transit to know the remaining shelf live of the products they’re selling to consumers. While we wrote off the cost of the strawberries as a business expense, imagine how an actual consumer would feel when they get home and find that the produce they just spent good money on was already garbage? Do you think they’ll buy produce from that retailer again? How many times has this happened to you?
Expect big changes in the coming year for the cold supply change – the heat is on.
Senior Director of Marketing