European Cold Chain Conference Review: Challenges and Opportunities

From the evolution of the frozen food market in Europe, to food efficiency, collaboration for innovation and the need for interconnectivity in the cold chain, key figures in the industry met in Amsterdam to discuss the current state of the European cold chain segment.

By Dan Orehov

The European Cold Chain Conference started 19 years ago as a training program geared toward front line warehouse workers but in time it has evolved into an educational and networking event for leaders in the temperature controlled and perishable products industry. The Global Cold Chain Alliance (GCCA), organizer of this year’s event, remains focused on growing the industry and allowing for debates on the most pressing issues with which the segment is faced with. Around 100 professionals attended the event held in Amsterdam this year, from all aspects of the cold chain – from warehousing to logistics and construction to transportation. The 19th European Cold Chain Conference focused on solutions and innovative approaches to cold chain management and provided a platform for sharing ideas and solutions, through presentations, discussions and educational sessions.

Attracting young professionals to the industry

One of the panel discussions during the event revolved around the importance of attracting the younger generation of professionals to the cold chain industry. The three young panelists, all belonging to companies active on this segment shared their own experiences about their tasks, as well as their ideas on how to draw the new generation to the cold chain businesses.

“This is a highly dynamic, yet very technical field and I believe that attracting young professionals is important. In order to do so, businesses should offer cross company educational programs, young professional buddy programs, provide them with operational challenges and with a dynamic work environment,” said Ben van Leeuwen, with Frigolanda Cold Logistics.

Social media and the digital world can be another means of getting the young into this business, according to Chris Menken, with Leen Menken Foodservice Logistics. This is especially important since the age group in question represents the main target for everything digital and online. “Industry lines are beginning to blur, you have producers who start their own web stores, shops in restaurants and restaurants in gas stations. Attracting the young generation means proving to them that working in this industry will never be boring since the dynamics are constantly changing, such as the growing role of e-commerce. Start a blog on social media to give young professionals an insight in all that the industry has to offer,” Menken said.

Lastly, emphasizing on matters that are important to young professionals is also key, as Kane Thomason from XPO Logistics explained. New technologies used in the cold chain industry, such as automation and new delivery methods, as well as issues the segment is concerned with, like the fight against food waste, could be important triggers for the young. “Provide people with self-satisfaction and allow them to have a personal impact; make sure you like running your own business and offer the new generation training and development programs. Because of the technology development in recent years, I predict our freezer technology at home could be as sophisticated as our warehouse,” Thomason said.

The Asian perspective

One of the guest speakers at this edition of the GCCA Cold Chain Conference in Amsterdam was Jian Cui, Logistics Dept. Cold Chain Director with JD.com, the third global e-commerce company in the world in terms of revenue, after Amazon.com and Google Inc. With a total revenue of USD18.5bn, JD.com is the largest e-commerce platform to originate from China, ahead of worldwide competitors such as Facebook.com, eBay.com, Yahoo.com and Alibaba Group. Considering these facts, Jian Cui’s presentation focused on challenges and opportunities for the cold chain industry, from the perspective of an online service provider.

“One of the main opportunities of the industry is the large number of e-commerce users: China surpassed the United States in 2013 as the largest e-commerce market and this proves there is a great demand, considering that in 2015, all the fresh e-commerce companies had a combined growth merchandise value of over RMB56bn, four times more than a year before”, Cui said. “There still remain challenges that need to be addressed however, such as a lack of uniform national standards, a low level of marketization, inadequate infrastructure, old equipment in use and a low level of temperature control,” he added.

The 19th European Cold Chain Conference also included presentations and discussion about human resources and issues concerning staff shortages, legal perspectives and recent changes in legislation, pertaining to the field, health and safety challenges, as well as presentations on temperature controlled road transport in the EU. “The event aimed to reach an exclusive group of delegates. Exhibitors and sponsors gained valuable exposure to senior level decision makers in the temperature controlled logistics industry. We consider the event was a great success, based on feedback from attendees and with the help of our Mobile App developed for the event, as well as the expo organized concurrently, where cold chain logistics providers showcased their products and service. We thank all those who attended and expect them at our future events,” concluded Corey Rosenbusch, president & CEO, GCCA.

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