Improving retail margins and building customer loyalty through proactive cold chain monitoring

Food & beverage   05 Sep 2018

There are more than 36,000 supermarkets in the U.S. today, and a growing number of food products traveling daily throughout the supply chain for distribution through online retailers, restaurants, convenience stores, and other businesses and institutions.

Global food supplies, changing consumer expectations and expanding regulations are creating more risk for food businesses. As competition for margins and profits increases, food retailers are looking to innovate their business and delivery models to meet the demands of today’s shoppers who—armed with new technologies and shifting needs and aspirations—are looking for new solutions and experiences from the stores they shop.

Nearly half of Americans now buy groceries online, according to new research from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Nielsen, through click-and-collect programs or direct home delivery. The organizations recently conducted a survey that found that 49% of US consumers had purchased consumer packaged goods (CPGs) online in the past three months. Among millennials, the rate was even higher, at 61%, and among Gen Xers, it was 55%. That number is only expected to grow, as online grocery sales are expected to reach $100 billion by 2025. Amazon’s Whole Foods, Target, Kroger, and Sam’s Club are all investing to grow the market and meet changing customer expectations through online food retail.

The changing expectations are placing greater pressures on retailers to maintain consistent product quality and freshness that drives customer trust and loyalty. Those food retailers who deliver consistently superior customer experiences can build customer loyalty, brand reputation, and overall marketshare. Managing risk and adopting cost-effective solutions will be mission-critical moving forward to boost margins and protect brand integrity. One negative experience can lead to reputational and business damage resulting from loss of customer confidence.

With the growth of these new models comes new risks to consider. Retailers must ensure that temperature-sensitive products, including fresh produce, frozen foods, and deep frozen foods, are maintained at the right temperature and humidity conditions end-to-end, as any deviations can significantly impact food freshness, and safety, and ultimately, the retailer’s brand. 

Risk mitigation through powerful cold chain monitoring

Retailers need to to equip their facilities and cooling units—whether onsite in their warehouses, refrigeration units, holding areas, or inside their delivery vehicles—with the right temperature and humidity monitoring solutions. Open display cases containing fresh produce may pose risks if they are placed too closely to an entrance, cold cases holding frozen foods may lose temperatures if a door isn’t properly closed, and repeated door openings from workers entering cold storage and refrigeration units may make it difficult to maintain food quality, safety, and freshness. The risks are even greater as products leave the warehouse for last-mile delivery to the consumer. 

Today’s retail chains must be armed with facility monitoring and traceability solutions that can close the loop on cold chain risks. They must:

  • Be reliable and fully validated solutions
  • Provide real-time environmental visibility and controls
  • Deliver accurate temperature and humidity reports, available on demand
  • Deliver up-to-the-minute quality notifications to respond to potential issues
  • Help to support energy-efficiency operations
  • Provide data to support corrective actions and close any cold chain gaps

The right technology and controls can detect performance issues and immediately notify stakeholders via SMS and email alerts, providing the right data so that corrective action can be taken to prevent food waste or quality issues. They can also help collect real-time data for audits and record keeping and support operational efficiency improvements. 

If a food safety risk or recall arises, products must be immediately identified and isolated so as not to reach consumers. 

  • The right solutions will enable businesses to:
  • Ensure food quality and safety end-to-end
  • Identify and mitigate risks
  • Reduce shrink and improve product shelf life
  • Improve cold chain performance
  • Support regulatory compliance
  • Drive customer loyalty and brand integrity
  • Boost margins and profitability

To fully leverage the differentiating opportunities that exist for brands offering e-commerce and last-mile delivery options that delight their customers, food retailers will need to adopt innovative strategies that mitigate the risks arising from these new models and close the gaps in their cold chains. Controlant’s continuous cold chain monitoring, management, and traceability solutions, delivered as a cost-effective, subscription-based service, provide retailers with the real-time solutions they need to scale visibility end-to-end. Armed with smart, robust solutions, supermarkets and retail chains can deliver the consistent quality and freshness their customers expect, and protect their brand. 

Contact us for more information about Controlant’s real-time cold chain management, facility monitoring, and vehicle and route monitoring solutions.

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