Biggest Trends for Cold Storage and Refrigerated Warehouse Systems

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an employee in a cold storage warehouse

Cold storage and refrigerated warehouse systems play a crucial role in the food industry. Whether you’re working with fresh ingredients or processed food, you’ll need to store these in optimal conditions to preserve their quality. Freezing or refrigerating them prevents contamination and extends their shelf life, effectively reducing waste.

Cold storage facilities have been around for a while now. But recent market changes have put them in the spotlight, with more businesses looking for cold chain solutions. Whether you build a facility or outsource this to a partner, it helps to stay updated with the latest trends in cold storage and refrigerated systems. Get to know more about them below.

cold storage warehouse

Increasing Market Demand

While many industries were negatively affected by COVID-19, it seems like the cold storage market experienced the opposite. The demand for cold storage facilities is now higher than ever—mainly because of the pandemic. 

First, many people have turned to online groceries and e-commerce stores to stock up on their pantries. And more importantly, online spending for refrigerated and frozen foods rose by 58% in October 2021. Because of this, businesses are looking for more cold storage capacity to keep their products in the right temperature conditions until they’re delivered. 

Additionally, customers are becoming more health-conscious, so frozen ingredients have become a staple for restaurants and food service companies. The advantage of using them is that they can better retain their nutrients while you keep them frozen. In contrast, fresh ingredients continuously lose nutrients over time, which can affect the quality of your food. 

Another factor driving demand for cold storage is supply chain disruptions. Given the delivery delays caused by restrictions, some businesses are stockpiling their inventory to prevent running out. Thus, they need extra warehouse space to preserve their ingredients and avoid spoilage. 

Finally, it’s worth noting that cold chain logistics isn’t just applicable to food and beverages. Other sensitive goods like chemicals, pharmaceuticals, plants, and paintings also need to be stored at specific temperatures. As such, the increased demand for cold storage is also coming from these other sectors.

Automation Integration and Robotics 

Speed and efficiency are crucial in a cold storage warehouse, but these facilities aren’t the easiest to manage. So this is where automation integration and robotics come in. Nowadays, it’s becoming more common for warehouses to use advanced technologies to streamline processes and reduce operating costs.

There are many ways you can automate a cold storage warehouse. The first is through the use of equipment like automated guided vehicles (AGVs) or robotic forklifts. These move around the warehouse on their own and are programmed to automate tasks like storage and retrieval. Using this equipment makes workers more productive since they can focus on more complex tasks. 

Aside from this, you can use various intelligent software to create a smarter facility. For example, a warehouse management system (WMS) allows you to manage your inventory and plan operational processes efficiently. It also helps you optimize your warehouse space to reduce the time needed to move around and get things done.

Need for Greater Visibility

With the supply chain problems caused by COVID-19 and the growth of direct-to-consumer (D2C) channels, visibility is more important than ever in the food industry. Business owners want to track their inventory to ensure they can continue with their regular operations. Otherwise, they may end up selling products that don’t come due to shipping delays. 

Fortunately, modern technologies now allow you to gain end-to-end visibility. This way, you can monitor where your ingredients are every step of the way. Having visibility also lets you verify if your ingredients are being stored at the right temperature to ensure they stay fresh when you receive them.

Taller Warehouses

Given the importance of fast delivery today, many food businesses and cold chain logistics companies are building warehouses in urban areas. But since land is much more expensive here, companies are gravitating towards creating tall warehouses. This has created a new need for things like fall protection equipment to keep workers safe at all times. 

Energy Efficiency Initiatives

Sustainability is a key theme among businesses these days—so it’s no surprise that energy efficiency is a massive trend in the cold storage space. This is also especially important today, given the rising energy prices. Cold warehouses are known for consuming huge amounts of electricity, so being able to cut this in any way makes a big difference in costs. 

Maximizing energy efficiency requires optimized operations and proper maintenance. It may seem challenging to reduce your energy input when you have cooling equipment running constantly. 

That said, one way to do this is by using Thermal Energy Storage (TES) technologies. These store energy, allowing your warehouse to operate with a “limited run time strategy.” This means your equipment will run idle for a certain number of hours while still maintaining temperature conditions. This way, you can consume less energy without risking the quality of your food ingredients. 

Another thing to consider is your refrigerated warehouse design. Many times, energy gets wasted when people or goods move around zones. This is because heat enters the space, causing your equipment to work harder to regulate the temperature. Some simple ways to prevent this are installing dividers between temperature zones and reminding workers to keep doors closed.

FAQs about Cold Storage and Refrigerated Warehousing

What is cold storage?

Cold storage is a temperature-controlled facility used to store perishable and sensitive goods like food and pharmaceuticals. It can use refrigerators, freezers, or both, depending on the nature of the facility or the type of product being stored.

What are the types of cold storage?

Cold storage options typically include:

  • Refrigerated Containers – mobile containers that can store a small number of items at specified temperatures
  • Blast Chillers and Freezers – large freezers used to keep food cool before it reaches its final destination
  • Mega Cold Storage and Cold Rooms – large storage units fitted with cooling equipment
  • Pharmaceutical-Grade Cold Storage – specialized facility designed to store pharmaceuticals, blood packages, vaccines, and other similar products

an employee in a cold storage warehouse

Where can I find cold storage for my food business?

Cold chain solutions can be outsourced to a third-party logistics (3PL) partner. A quick search of cold storage near me should show you some potential partners you can work with for your cold storage needs.

How do I choose the right cold storage warehousing partner?

When choosing a cold storage warehousing partner, here are some factors to consider:

  • Reputation and experience in cold chain logistics 
  • Proximity of warehouse to your restaurant or manufacturing facility
  • Certifications from accredited organizations
  • Inventory tracking and reporting systems
  • Temperature control capabilities

Join Sunleaf Foods’ Cold Chain Program for High-Quality Ingredients  

The trends listed above all point to the same thing—cold storage is growing rapidly due to changes in consumers’ food buying habits. So if you have yet to use frozen ingredients in your business, now may be the time to do so.

At Sunleaf Foods, we make it easy to do this with our three-pronged cold chain program, which includes sourcing, storage, and logistics. We take the burden off your shoulders by managing your supply chain for you, so you no longer have to worry about your inventory. To learn more about our program, call us at 949-899-6285.

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