Bespoke is better by far

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FloraHolland flower auction site near Schiphol Airport

Carriers that can provide consistent and reliable services with precise temperature control of sensitive cargos now offer their own bespoke systems to facilitate the fast and reliable transportation of perishable goods. IAG Cargo’s (IAG) Constant Fresh and Lufthansa Cargo’s Fresh/td product are specifically designed to keep produce fresh and optimise shelf-life.

For IAG Cargo, it involves dedicated and custom built perishable handling facilities at its Heathrow and Madrid hubs to provide speedy and reliable services, along with expertise in the handling of perishable shipments. IAG Cargo’s global products manager, Daniel Johnson, says that despite challenging market conditions IAG has maintained a respectable year on year performance for Constant Fresh. “It has been helped by continued investment in our perishables service underlined in April of this year when we moved our London Heathrow [Airport] perishable handling facility to Worldwide Flight Services (WFS),” he tells Air Cargo Week (ACW). “This has provided customers with a smooth and faster service, with them now being able to collect direct from the airport within two hours of arrival.

Speed remains the fundamental prerequisite for any perishable product and as such IAG has focused on fast handling from aircraft arrival at both Heathrow Airport and Gatwick Airport, through WFS, to the consignee. “We also see a number of our customers upgrading their bookings from Constant Fresh to Prioritise in order to benefit from our same day connecting services at Heathrow, which is of huge value to time sensitive products. Fresh fish, for example, can get from East to West all in the same calendar day.” As the market evolves Johnson sees customers becoming ever more demanding. “It’s about speed and freshness,” he says. “With the arrival of our next generation aircraft we can now set the hold temperature to within one degree centigrade accuracy; all in an effort to extend the shelf life of products.

In the UK, low cost supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl are one of the driving forces behind market expansion for the long distance transportation of perishable products. “With many consumers moving away from cheaper frozen produce there is an increasing demand for fresh produce on the shelves,” says Johnson. IAG claims record growth in European seafood, crabs and razor clams from Scotland and crabs from Devon, shipments to China, where demand for premium European products in the increasingly affluent East Asian markets is very strong.
A further sign of market expansion comes with the planned July opening at Shanghai Pudong International Airport Cargo Terminal (PACTL) of a 3,500 square metre perishables centre, which has been designed with future capacity to expand by a further 550 square metres. It is located near to the first of PACTL’s three terminals and is accessible from Pudong International Airport’s airside and the landside. Of PACTL’s annual volumes, 50,000 tonnes are perishables. Of those, 30,000 tonnes are classical perishables, such as food, with the remaining 20,000 tonnes being pharmaceuticals.

The Biopharma Cold Chain Sourcebook predicts cold chain logistics spending will be $10.1 billion worldwide this year. By 2019, this spend is projected to reach $13 billion. On the back of this growing market PeriLog, a new conference on food logistics, is to be held for the first time as part of the International Transport Logistics Exhibition (logitrans) in Istanbul from 18-20 November 2015.

According to Cathay Pacific Services (CPSL) chief executive officer, Kelvin Ko, healthcare is another segment that demonstrates growing momentum. “To cope with demand, we recently obtained the [good distribution practices (GDP)] certification, ensuring that the handling of pharmaceutical products at [Cathay Pacific Cargo Terminal (CPCT)] conforms with World Health Organization guidelines,” he says. “We also offer customers a comprehensive quality management system, well-trained and qualified personnel, a dedicated temperature controlled handling centre and operating procedures to ensure every part of the supply chain handled by CPCT meets global standards.”

Lufthansa Cargo champions its own Fresh/td system and its product manager, Uta Frank, tells ACW this is being used to transport all kinds of perishable goods, including flowers, plants, fruit, vegetables, meat products and seafood as well as other temperature-sensitive perishable goods. “A predominantly temperature-controlled environment during flight and storage along with specially trained personnel, make sure perishables arrive freshly,” says Frank.
“At our main hub Frankfurt we co-operate closely with the Perishable Centre Frankfurt (PCF) where the goods are being stored. This might be at temperatures ranging between minus 24C and plus 24C in different rooms.

Lufthansa Cargo also offers customers vacuum cooling and fast cooling services, the former being used for products like fresh cut flowers on journeys from Ecuador via Frankfurt to Russia. “Products such as flowers and plants, fruit and vegetables create their own heat during transport,” explains Frank. “For this reason close cooperation between all partners involved in the supply chain is important.

“Generally, development for perishables is stable with some slight increases. Berries, especially blueberries, but also cherries from Middle and South America as well as Egypt are developing well.”