Food Sector & Cold Chain need to collaborate on trend-driven innovation


There are big changes happening in the food sector right now. Home delivery, healthy choices, sustainability, quality, and food safety are just a few of the trends that are currently having an impact on how the sector is organized. Changing consumer behavior is the biggest driver of these developments, and they are especially challenging for the meat and dairy chain. A cold chain can help in meeting many of these challenges, by bringing last-mile solutions, active cooling and new delivery methods.

The biggest food and consumer trends are driving important changes in the food sector. According to decision-makers in the sector, the critical challenges are increased liability and responsibility, growing rules and regulations and rising logistical costs. They also expect sustainability, electrification and new delivery methods to play an important role in their companies within the next few years.

These were just some of the results from VebaBox’s recent research, ‘Opportunities, challenges and trends in the cold chain’. VebaBox surveyed the market’s outlook on trends to help put the focus of our work directly on innovations that will soon become a necessity in the food sector.

Last-mile solutions
Managing Director Roland van de Ven explains: ‘We actively scan for new developments in the cold chain and then develop relevant modules that fit within the hardware and processes of our customers. Our mission is to optimize the cold chain using smart innovations that work in the existing environment. The LogiBox, for example, is an answer to crucial developments in last mile. This passive cooler box with an integrated cooling element ensures that products can be kept at an optimum temperature for up to 72 hours, whether en route or already delivered to their destination. It’s an effective solution for pharma and food producers, and also increasingly important for retailers in the logistics process.’

Last-mile developments are increasing the levels of interest in electrification, new delivery methods and reusable passive cooling solutions.

Active cooling turns any vehicle into a refrigerated vehicle, Mr. Van de Ven also responded to research participants’ investment activities: ‘What I noticed most from the study, is the investment in things like monitoring, productivity improvements and fleets. When you combine those types of investment, I think you can create a multiplier effect. It is exactly this attention to combined improvements that pushes the sort of innovations we do most at VebaBox: smart products that can be integrated into existing processes and fleets.’

The VebaBox is an active cooling module that can turn any commercial vehicle into a refrigerated vehicle. It can chill or heat to temperatures between 2˚C and 25˚C and freeze to between -22˚C and 5˚C, even on location and when the motor is not running. And it is adaptable to any size car. This makes it a simple and effective solution for any company. The more a company is involved in the last mile, the more important reusable passive or active cooling solutions become.

Too little investment in innovation

The research results also reveal that decision-makers in the food sector are not all equally attuned to trends. There is still remarkably little investment in innovation, and surprisingly little attention to strategic planning for the future. It seems that the entire sector is waiting to see what happens. But waiting for what exactly? The newcomers, however, are noticeably more awake and much more active in implementing alternative delivery methods, electrification and last-mile solutions. This makes them a viable threat to the more traditional businesses.

Research lays the foundation for innovation

VebaBox is using this research to encourage companies to work together in the chain and to collaborate on innovation. As Van de Ven explains, ‘This study reveals which trends provide direction and where the cold chain can be optimized. These insights also help us work together with our customers to come up with new and innovative solutions.’