By Marc Josephson, co-founder and director of CORIS Life Sciences Monitoring
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates 30-40% of food is wasted annually. While we can attribute this waste to multiple sectors within the food supply chain — from retailers overordering to consumers throwing out extras — it’s an incentive for food manufacturers to turn the lens on their own operations.
In the case of frozen food manufacturers, products sold are intended to minimize food waste at a consumer level, as frozen foods can be kept fresh for longer periods. And in this respect, research shows they’ve been successful. According to the British Food Journal, frozen foods generate 47% less food waste in homes than ambient and chilled food.
While the nature of the products cuts loss, it’s just as important for this waste reduction to be a part of the frozen food manufacturing process. After all, product loss comes with a hefty price tag, especially when you’re in the business of small-batch food production.
What product loss means for small-batch food producers
Let’s say you’re an ice cream manufacturer with $90,000 worth of product in just one of your facility’s freezers. Over the weekend, the freezer malfunctions and staff come into the facility on Monday to discover all of the freezer’s ice cream has melted and needs to be discarded.
For a large manufacturer, this scenario is problematic from both a cost perspective and the manual effort required to discard and replace the product. But it’s a situation where they often have the capital reserves and production capacity to quickly recover, filling customer orders with only a minor delay.
A small-batch manufacturer faces a much larger issue — one that could effectively put them out of business. When these smaller food manufacturing operations are set back by a freezer failure, their limited production capacity means it can take two to three weeks to fill outstanding customer orders. To keep their own operations afloat, the manufacturer’s customers need to find alternative suppliers, which means the loss of immediate orders and potentially losing customers to these other suppliers indefinitely. Collectively, these short- and long-term losses can have a big financial impact on food manufacturers, to the point where some can have a tough time getting back on their feet and others may not get back at all.
While product loss can be especially costly to small-batch manufacturers, it’s also worth noting the importance of food waste reduction from a sustainability standpoint. The less food that is wasted in the frozen food manufacturing process, the less energy is wasted and the more you can minimize greenhouse gas emissions. What’s more, data suggests consumers are willing to pay 30 to 40% more for sustainably produced goods.
How 24/7 temperature monitoring can help minimize loss
Storage freezers are an integral part of the frozen food manufacturing process, housing products once they are manufactured and before they reach their next destination in the supply chain — a grocery store, restaurant, or another retail location.
As a mechanical system, it’s not a question of if one of these freezers will fail, but when. While the commercial and industrial-grade freezers can have a lifespan of about a decade or longer, any number of variables can cause premature system failure, from a lack of proper maintenance (such as dirty compressor coils or frost build-up) to improper use (like overstuffing the freezer with food product).
Considering that freezer failures can happen anytime of day, it’s critical these systems are monitored not just on a regular basis, but on a continuous basis, even and especially in the event of a power or Internet outage. This level of comprehensive monitoring ensures freezers — and your frozen food manufacturing process — are built to weather any storm.
Think of 24/7 temperature monitoring as a safety net for your food products. A proactive investment now means less product loss down the road.
Marc Josephson is a co-founder and director of CORIS Life Sciences Monitoring, a company that provides sensor-based temperature and energy monitoring solutions.