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Professionals in the cold chain industry assert that energy management technologies will wield a greater influence on controlled temperature logistics in the coming decade compared to automation, blockchain, or changes in cold chain product demand.

Today, the Cold Chain Federation released its new Cold Chain Report 2023, which presents the findings of the federation’s survey on the state of the UK’s cold chain involving over 100 stakeholders. Survey respondents ranked energy management technologies as the primary influencer of controlled temperature logistics in the next decade, closely followed by automation in the second position.

“The resolute conviction among cold chain leaders that energy management technologies will have the most significant impact on the industry in the next decade reflects not only the expectation of persistently high energy costs but also the necessity to transition towards zero-impact cold chain operations. Whether it’s electrifying refrigerated vehicles, harnessing renewable energy sources, or reimagining energy storage and warehouse heat reuse, the opportunities to achieve cost savings while fulfilling customer needs and increasingly stringent regulations have become an imperative. Our latest data also reveals a proactive response from operators: 25% of the UK’s cold storage facilities now employ renewable energy technology,” stated a Cold Chain Federation representative.

Moreover, the Cold Chain Report 2023 reveals that while the cost of energy and other fuels is seen as the current primary challenge for cold chain businesses, there are strong opportunities such as enhanced efficiency and the growing demand for sustainable cold chain logistics. Overall, 91% of the respondents expressed either a very positive or moderately positive outlook regarding the long-term future of the UK’s controlled temperature logistics sector.

In addition to detailing the survey results on the state of the cold chain, the report includes the federation’s analysis of key industry facts and figures, encompassing refrigerated storage and controlled temperature distribution.

 

“Our latest analysis shows that wholesale energy costs have marginally decreased compared to 2022, but this still represents an 89% increase in wholesale energy costs for the cold chain between 2017 and 2023. The report also highlights the immense impact of the end of red diesel on controlled temperature transport: in 2023, there are an additional £73 million in fuel duty costs following the end of red diesel entitlement in 2022. This tax escalation raises the cost of refrigerated transport diesel in the UK from £153 million to £226 million,” asserted Tom Southall, Executive Director of the Cold Chain Federation.

Other key findings from the cold chain survey and data analysis in the new report include:

  • 68% of respondents believe that promoting efficiency to reduce costs has been one of the top opportunities for cold chain companies. 62% stated that the rising demand for sustainable cold chain logistics services has been one of the top opportunities for cold chain businesses.
  • 79% of respondents cited the cost of energy and other fuels as a major challenge for cold chain companies. Other challenges included labor costs, workforce availability, sustainability requirements, and UK economic uncertainty.
  • 58% view net-zero as both a challenge and an opportunity (21% see it solely as an opportunity, while 21% view it solely as a challenge).
  • Respondents chose investing in new low-carbon emission equipment as the most critical action a controlled temperature logistics company can take to reduce carbon emissions. Secondarily, improving the efficiency of existing equipment and reducing/eliminating the use of high-GWP refrigerants were identified.
  • Respondents identified maintaining high levels of service and reliability as a top priority for their customers in the next 12 months, with cost reduction being the second priority.
  • CCF membership grew from 133 members in January 2019 to 278 members in June 2023. Participation in CCF events (online and in-person) increased from 504 in 2019 to 1490 in 2022.

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