We hope you have a happy and healthy National Avocado Day, July 31. Here at Prime Fresh Handling, we celebrate the “alligator pear” everyday, as a true standout in our cornucopia of perishables-shipping services.
This super delicious super-food is seeing explosive growth in popularity as the world gets to know and love the avocado in its many forms and uses. That’s a good thing for avocado growers, but also for Prime Fresh Handling customers – wholesale distributors and food service companies that rely on our proven expertise to get their product to market fast and as fresh as they day it was picked.
In addition to avocados, here are the other “top bananas” among the fruit PFH handles:
- Blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries from Chile, Mexico, and local U.S. farms in the off-seasons;
- Subtropical exotic fruits, such as dragon fruit from Ecuador – nearly 500.000 kg in 2021;
- Citrus like limes and lemons from Mexico;
- Fresh aromatic herbs grown in Northern California; and
- Cherries, during a tight three-week season each December.
Roots in Fresh Flowers
For a company that started 20 years ago with a singular mission of shipping highly perishable cut flowers, this shift into the fresh produce market in recent years was swift, successful – and smart.
“We have a saying in this business,” says Cristina Moscoso, Prime Fresh Handling’s General Manager-West Coast “‘If you can ship fresh-cut flowers you can pretty much ship anything’ – and our resounding success in the worldwide produce market is proof positive of our wide-ranging specialty shipping capabilities.”
In a business where timing is everything, it is interesting to note that by the time COVID hit, PFH had already become an established leader in the fresh fruit an vegetable sector, serving the U.S. with bi-coastal service hubs in L.A. and New York, in addition to its shipping facilities in Miami, Amsterdam, Bogota, and Quito.
So many worldwide industries were hobbled by the crisis, yet as a provider of “essential services” PFH was able to maintain operations for its customers despite the vast challenges presented by the pandemic. Major disruptions in transportation across the entire worldwide supply chain, labor shortages, higher costs at freight terminals, were the tough realities of the day – at the same time demand was getting stronger. PFH was clearly prepared and ready for success at every level – for every customer.
So what does it take to not just maintain operations, but to also thrive in the highly competitive international perishables food shipping and handling sector? Let’s take a look.
Important Factors in Transporting Produce and Perishables
According to market research studies the refrigerated transport industry is projected to reach a market size of nearly US$20 billion in 2023, with chilled fresh fruits and vegetables emerging as the leading sub-segment within this market.
As the world economy recovers from the pandemic, factors driving growth in this market is continued improvement in technology, a fall in transportation costs, and favorable trade agreements signed by the major countries of the world. Despite a conducive atmosphere for business growth, the transportation of produce and other perishables faces several ongoing challenges – some of which are inherent in the way the fresh produce and perishable logistics are structured, while others are driven by external, macroeconomic factors.
For any logistics provider, the primary way to combat these challenges is to keep on evolving with time. Companies that innovate, invest in newer technologies, and train their staff as part of a long-term strategy sustain and serve well.
Prime Fresh Handling, a global leader in the field of fresh produce and perishable transportation, is doing just that. We specifically deal with perishables such as pharmaceutical, seafood, flowers, and plants, and produce. The company offers special care to these time- and temperature-sensitive products in terms of crating, labeling, temperature monitoring, warehousing, and delivery.
In fact, such holistic attention towards deliverables allowed for PFH to recently manage the first-ever international shipments of little known fruits such as pitahaya and golden gooseberries to name a few. So how do we continue to adapt and thrive under such conditions?
Identifying the Perfect Ones
The process of transporting fresh fruits and vegetables starts with an examination of the produce. Although the process is largely about building efficiencies into the process so that the product remains in the same condition it was when originally loaded, it’s always recommended to pack only those items that appear sturdy, free from damage and bruising, and under-ripe. This process of identification is undoubtedly difficult and involves the chances of some “sour apples” slipping in.
However, expert logistics companies such as PFH with robust carting mechanisms can make this process almost error-free.
Inefficiencies in the Loading and Unloading Process
Once we have identified the material that is transportation-ready, the next step is to successfully load them. It is quite easily comprehensible that inefficient loading and unloading would result in damage. Therefore, using the correct types of loading technology and loading instruments is a must. But, there is another sub-area within the domain of loading and unloading that often takes a toll on the entire supply chain, both in terms of the efficiency of the chain and the cost.
Areas of loading and unloading require delivery trucks and vehicles to be ready on the spot at the time the material arrives. Scheduling these trucks and vehicles, which then transport the produce to the retail market, is of utter importance. If trucks arrive late at the time of loading and unloading, it could result in a loss of precious time. More than a permissible margin of delay in fresh produce logistics can harm products beyond recovery.
A way to ensure that there are no such delays could be to schedule the retail-market delivery trucks ahead of time. But, that again may end up in the delivery company incurring a significant amount of waiting-charge. To strike the right balance between these two, and to make the field-to-market delivery happen in optimal time, delivery companies must plan their entire route well and keep the main delivery vehicle under continuous monitoring.
Packaging – An Integral Part of the Process
Between selecting the appropriate products and loading them for delivery comes another important step that demands increased attention. It is the aspect of packaging the product. There is no one-type-fits-all type of packaging available in this market. For example, fruits like apples, citrus, and pears that have sturdy skins can endure the impact of a long journey. But, soft fruits, such as plums or peaches, require special packaging. The packaging material used should also exhibit resilience to sudden changes in temperature and bumping around.
Apart from the packaging material, the logistics providers should also be mindful of the transportation carriers used. For example, trays are perfectly suited for carrying watermelons, whereas tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers fit best in wooden or plastic crates and packets. Cauliflower is best preserved in plastic bags. Bananas are usually stuffed in bunches, whereas pineapples require packing in rows with their leaves facing up.
Temperature and Humidity
This is probably the most important factor to consider when it comes to the transportation of fresh produce and perishable goods. Both the temperature and humidity are to be maintained at the right levels. If the temperature starts to rise, bacteria and pathogens can start to grow.
To give an example, fruits like oranges, grapes, and chilies are best maintained at a temperature between 0°C and 2°C. The accompanying temperature should be between 95 and 100 percent. Then, there are products like garlic and onions that survive in that temperature but require humidity levels between 65 and 75 percent. On the other hand, there are fruits like bananas, avocados, and mangoes that can sustain humidity levels between 85 and 90 percent but require a much higher temperature between 13°C and 15°C.
Apart from maintaining the correct temperature and humidity, there are some procedural lapses as well that stands a chance at impacting the integrity of the product. Therefore, experienced providers give special attention to ensure that the product and the trailer are both precooled properly. The temperature should be maintained at the required level throughout the transit. Fluctuations in temperature can harm the sustainability of the product. To save transportation costs, producers often overload the vehicle. So, the logistics provider needs to ensure that the materials are packed in such a way that each one of them gets the benefit of the temperature -control mechanism.
How Can Companies Ensure Efficient Transportation of Produce & Perishable?
Here, we will again take the help of the system put in place by the leading logistics services provider PFH. The operating mechanism shows us how to deal with produce and perishables most effectively.
- Holistic Management of the Cool Chain: For safe, secure, and cost-effective transportation, it is recommended that shippers work with logistics companies that can provide holistic services. Distributing parts of the chain among multiple providers results in inconsistency and lack of integrity. PFH is considered a leader in the segment because it provides cold storage facilities, temperature-controlled handling and transportation, inventory management, quality control, and bonded warehousing.
- Optimization: As we have already seen, optimization of the route is vital to ensuring efficiency and savings. PFH, for example, has trained its staff over the years to successfully shorten the process by cutting down on transfer times, and moving paperwork efficiently and cleanly.
- Use of Technology: In general, the success of the transportation business has always been about the correct use of the latest technology. As a leader in this market, PFH has always leveraged industry-leading technologies such as vacuum cooling, sorting, re-packing, bar coding, labeling, and temperature monitoring to guarantee a consistent, safe, and fresh delivery. Technology also makes tracking and tracing of the deliveries more efficient.
After all these considerations, it is also important that the provider offers its services at a competitive rate. Leaders like PFH take special care to continually explore innovative avenues that are the best value-for-the-money for its clients.