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Quintessential | Why and how we fly perishables, to begin with

Blog post   •   Sep 16, 2018 16:48 GMT

Consumers across the world increasingly seek fresh, high-quality products. (Photo by Anne Preble on Unsplash)

Perishables currently account for roughly 15% of Panalpina’s Air Freight volumes. That’s a lot of fruit, vegetables, flowers, fish and other fresh products.

Panalpina’s growing perishables business reflects global demand. More and more consumers across the world seek fresh, high-quality products, and local producers are stepping in to meet the rising international appetite.

Interestingly, many of these producers are in places that you would not necessarily expect. Take the Scots for example. Did you know that they have been producers of crab and lobster for a long time? The earliest records of lobster fishing in Scotland date back to the 12th century. This predates whiskey making!

Scotland’s natural environment is a real selling point. Crustaceans are landed throughout the Scottish coast during the third and fourth quarters of the year and most are exported live to markets in southern Europe.

But Asian markets and China in particular are taking an increasingly large share of the Scottish crab, as they consider the soft-shelled brown crab to be some of the finest crustaceans.

The brown crabs were initially being sent frozen, but the appetite for fresh food has dramatically increased live air freight volumes.

According to Seafood Scotland, seafood recently accounted for the biggest rise (26%) in food exports. In fact, food exports from Scotland to Asia have increased over 400% since 2007.

Punctuality is the shortest distance between A and B

It’s 2018 and the world has run out of peripheries – air travel and the internet have made distances shorter both physically and culturally.

And the availability of suppliers and products is so wide that the limit is your own imagination. Or so we feel as consumers. Just like the Chinese want their soft-shelled brown crab, the Europeans want to eat that nice avocado toast down the street and they expect the avos to be fresh.

Now, proper worldwide distribution remains a challenge. What’s the shortest distance between origin and destination, or from field to fork as we like to say in the industry? It’s punctuality.

Punctuality is essential in perishables. Think of any other product – if that lamp you bought on online arrives a day or two later than expected, you might feel disappointed but the lamp won’t turn bad. Not the case with retailers and perishables, for them every day of shelf life matters; some fruits have to be consumed within two or three days from harvesting.

Precision is equally important

Last year Panalpina airlifted 42,000 kg of frozen guacamole from Mexico to the UK in ten shipments over a six-week period. This might seem odd. Why ship frozen food by air? If the customer was happy with having the product sent over six weeks, wouldn’t a single shipment by ocean be more reasonable?

Because of product nature or market requirements, perishables can be very particular. High-quality guacamole is made in small amounts and then quick-frozen to maintain its freshness. In this case, the customer required it in small increments to fulfill orders and avoid storage issues in the UK.

Retail has become very global and retailers want to offer the same products in Europe and in Asia at different intervals or for immediate distribution. That’s where we, the freight forwarding and logistics companies, step in to help.

Suppliers are also becoming more aware that quality is essential, and although standards vary, the trend is for the better. In turn, we have to ensure optimal transit. We do our part with consultancy, coordination, handling, capacity and reach, making sure we maintain the cold chain.

Choosing the right partners

If you want things to run smoothly you need to make the right choices, and choosing good partners is one of the most important ones you’ll have to make. We work with partners like Levarht for example, and you can see why.

To guarantee a continuous supply of fresh products is a huge challenge for everyone involved.

There’s always room for improvement and lessons to be learned, for example in linking and standardizing processes across different countries and organizations, and we are working closely with partners and our own talent to solve that. Top product specialists of the Panalpina Perishables Network are working globally to make sure our services are up-to-date, remain competitive, and add value to our customers.

Practically, this means that shipping times will decrease, handling payments will become easier, information will flow seamlessly, and the shelf life of fresh products will increase.

Ok that was longer than I anticipated. Good I specialize in air freight and perishables and not in writing. But if you found this post helpful and would you like to see more, leave a comment below and tell me what you’d like me to cover.

If you’re into perishables you might also want to follow Colin’s Food for Thought. My long-time collaborator and global head of industry vertical perishables, Colin Wells, has also started to post his insights. I’ve known Colin for many years, and am sure his blog will be just as interesting as he is.

Link to original article on LinkedIn.