Finding the right third-party logistics (3PL) company to manage your food supply chain can be an intimidating prospect. Food handling and distribution takes a host of certifications, equipment, and facilities that not all logistics providers will have at the ready. Risks in the food supply chain are high, and improper storage or handling of food can result in spoiled products, food waste, expensive recalls, and damage to your brand.
With so much at stake, it’s critical to vet your potential food logistics providers to make sure they have the necessary capabilities for handling food products. When sifting through proposals, pay special consideration to the following areas:
Temperature Controlled Capabilities
A variety of food products must be refrigerated or frozen throughout their lifecycle. Even shelf-ready consumer goods—such as canned goods, potato chips, bottled drinks, etc.—will spoil early if stored improperly at high temperatures. This can occur in warehouses without proper temperature control or in uncontrolled truck trailers, railcars, or cargo containers.
It’s critical that your logistics provider has the capability to handle your raw materials and finished products properly throughout each step of their journey, ensuring that they are stored and transported at appropriate temperatures that facilitate maximum product life.
Given the nature of the product, food-related activities must comply with a variety of regulations. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) carefully regulate facilities that store and handle food, so it’s imperative that food shippers only use logistics partners that comply with the legal requirements put forth by these entities.
For food warehouses, regulatory compliance includes:
- Registration with the FDA, including a unique FDA facility identification number for each location that handles food products
- Passing FDA inspections every three years in compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act
- An approved plan that identifies problems and solutions for any facility-specific issues that might compromise food safety
Any violation of these rules could be grounds for the FDA to order a product recall and shut down a facility. If this happens to your logistics partner, it could have a severe impact on your business.
To ensure that your 3PL won’t put you at risk, look for additional non-government certifications that speak to quality, such as American Institute of Baking (AIB) certification for food warehouses and distribution centers, or Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) food-grade warehouse certification. In addition, ask your provider about the following:
- Pest control procedures
- Expiration date monitoring and lot/batch control
- Quality control measures
- Product segregation/anti-contamination measures
- Employee background checks
All food products are perishable to some degree, so it’s important to contract with a logistics provider that can reach your target markets. For highly perishable items such as fruits and vegetables, for example, the location of the distribution center can be critical. While many fruits and vegetables can last for months under highly controlled storage conditions, they begin to ripen as soon as they are removed from these conditions for transport to their final destination.
As such, it’s very important that your 3PL operates in your target market or can acquire and certify a food-grade facility for use in an appropriate location. Grocery e-commerce providers are monopolizing much of the existing capacity, so you may need a logistics provider that can develop creative solutions for reaching congested markets.
Your Food is Safe with Phoenix Logistics
Phoenix Logistics regularly handles products for a variety of food-related industries, including:
- Food & Beverage
- Ingredients & Intermediate Products
- Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG)
- Packaging materials
If we don’t have a warehouse or distribution center near your target U.S. market, we’ll find one and get it certified. Our national network of technology-enabled, AIB-certified, GMP food-grade warehouses offer an ideal solution for the safe handling of food products of all kinds. In addition, our carefully vetted network of transportation partners can safely bring your finished food products to their point of sale.