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FRESH PRODUCE
Consistency of delivered freshness a huge challenge.
Despite many advances in produce harvesting, processing and distribution techniques, there still remains roughly 33% post-harvest waste* between the farm, retailer and consumer. Much of this waste is the result of misperceptions...
*UN FAO Global Food Losses and Food Waste
 
Perception
Reality
Impact
All produce harvested on the same day will have the same shelf life.
Produce shelf life can vary significantly within a single day's harvest.
Cut-to-Cool time delays directly impact shelf life.
Cut Time: 7:00 AM @ 65°
Entered Pre-Cooler: 8:15 AM @ 68°
Cut Time: 9:30 AM @ 72°
Entered Pre-Cooler: 5:20 PM @ 83°
Cut Time: 2:30 PM @ 84°
Entered Pre-Cooler: 7:05 PM @ 88°
Your first harvest of the day is at cool morning temperatures, and goes directly into pre-cool upon arriving at the pack house. But as the day wears on, pre-cooler capacity doesn't match the harvest rate, and pallets back up. As cut-to-cool time grows, and temperatures rise, product shelf life decreases. If the reduced shelf life from extended cut-to-cool times is not tracked, the risk of problems or rejection for deliveries to distant retailers increases.
Perception
Reality
Impact
Produce pulp temperatures match pre-cooler air temperature when pallets are removed.
Produce temperatures can vary significantly after pre-cooling.
Insufficient pre-cooling significantly reduces shelf life.
Pre-cooling is critical to extending shelf life, as it is the primary method of reducing the respiration rate, which slows ripening or delays decay. Best-use-by dates assume complete pre-cooling to the safest low temperature for each type of produce. However, many products are insufficiently pre-cooled due to inaccurate and incomplete tracking of product pallet temperature. Even small final pre-cool temperature differences can lead to significant shelf life reduction.
Perception
Reality
Impact
It doesn't matter which pallet ships to the furthest destination because they all have the same remaining days of freshness.
Unaccounted for variations in remaining days of freshness can dramatically impact delivered freshness.
Indiscriminate routing results in inconsistent delivered freshness and unnecessary waste.
Blindly selecting pallets with varying freshness for differing distribution requirements and transit times leads to disappointment in delivered freshness. The longer the trip or post-delivery distribution needs, the higher the risk. Waste and customer disappointment increases if you do not ensure the necessary freshness based on distribution time and customer needs (i.e. retailer versus restaurant).
Perception
Reality
Impact
All produce is maintained at the ambient temperature of the trailer.
Significant pallet-level temperature variations can occur within the trailer.
In-transit pallet temperature variations increase waste and risk of shipment rejection.
Studies have shown, that even in, "…well-controlled conditions inside a chilled distribution container, there were significant temperature variations from pallet to pallet of up to 35 percent."* Trailer level temperature monitoring exposes the supplier to full load rejections, based on a few bad pallets, and the retailer to accepting bad pallets based on false assumptions resulting in waste for the retailer.
*Intelligent Cold Chain - Deloitte
Perception
Reality
Impact
Visual inspection is a reliable way to estimate remaining freshness.
Visual inspection cannot reliably estimate remaining freshness.
Produce is distributed that does not meet retail freshness requirements.
Extending shelf life through refrigeration has led to a disconnect between visual freshness indicators and actual remaining freshness. Fresh picked fruit typically is fresh for 2-3 days. Refrigeration has extended that to 14+ days, as the ripening or decay process has been slowed. So visual indicators are lagging indicators, only apparent in the final few days of remaining freshness, meaning they are only a good screen for consumers–not supply chain receiving.
Perception
Reality
Impact
All produce received at retail is fresh, with at least 5 days of remaining shelf life.
Produce quality can vary significantly due to post-harvest handling.
Store-level quality inconsistency leads to dissatisfied customers and waste.
Grocers maintain and display produce with care, as consumers choose retailers based on their fresh produce. However, retailers are challenged with maintaining freshness as they cannot "see" how the produce was previously handled, and the produce is only as fresh as it was received – which can vary significantly. Without consistent delivered freshness, this challenge becomes unmanageable, resulting in waste for both the retailer and the consumer.
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