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Column: GCCA Offers Overview Of Global Cold Storage Capacity Report

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by Matt Ott, president and CEO, Global Cold Chain Alliance

As much of the world continues to shelter in place, essential workers at every link of the global cold supply chain are working tirelessly to get food to our dinner tables. 

From product storage and packaging to seamless cold chain transit, from shipping to reliable point-of-sale storage solutions, companies are laser-focused on safety and efficiency. I witnessed these remarkable efforts in person during a recent series of socially distanced member visits. 

I was amazed to see how swiftly and intelligently 3PL suppliers have adapted their business practices to accommodate the shifting needs of consumers and increased demand during a global pandemic. The fact that our members can successfully service their diverse group of customers in such challenging times is a testament to how well-prepared they are for any crisis that comes their way.

There’s no question that the global pandemic has caused changes in perishable food production and retailer demand, both of which affect cold storage requirements. As purchasing patterns shift from restaurant and/or foodservice to grocery stores, our industry continues to experience growth.

Nevertheless, cold storage capacity in many global markets is currently tighter than it has been over the past few years. For example, here in the United States and Canada, we have seen the occupancy of cold storage facilities average 80 percent this last year. Many facilities are considered 90 percent full as they need space to operate and manage distribution. 

The latest GCCA 2020 Global Cold Storage Capacity Report details the expansive reach of cold chain suppliers worldwide, with an impressive 41 percent increase in countries participating in it.

Based on the assumption that the middle class tends to concentrate in urban and suburban areas, the below overview of the report uses urban population as a benchmark. 

In developing country markets, middle-class and high-income consumer segments support the demand for refrigerated and frozen foods, which ultimately drives the refrigerated warehouse service industry. The market development index is calculated as cold storage capacity per urban resident. 

An overview the Global Capacity Report:

  • The total capacity of refrigerated warehouses worldwide was 719 million cubic meters in 2020, 16.7 percent greater than the capacity reported in 2018. A portion of this growth is due to reporting from new countries and improvements in data collection.
  • North America and China accounted for most of the increase in reported capacity since 2018.
  • The U.S., at 156 million cubic meters, was the single largest country market, followed by India at 150 million cubic meters and China at 131 million cubic meters.
  • Canada, the U.S., Brazil and the Netherlands all had average warehouse size of more than 100,000 cubic meters.
  • The top five GCCA global players in the market include Lineage Logistics, Americold Logistics, United States Cold Storage, AGRO Merchants Group and NewCold Advanced Cold Logistics.
  • Refrigerated warehouse space was distributed unevenly across countries based on the index of market penetration developed by the Global Cold Chain Alliance.
  • Mexico, Brazil and China have the largest unmet need for refrigerated warehouse space.
  • Worldwide, the average 2020 cold storage capacity per urban resident was 0.15 cubic meters, ranging from less than 0.1 cubic meters per resident to .9.

GCCA and our members will continue to work side by side with the greater grocery industry on our collective efforts to ensure dependable access to safe, high-quality products – now and well into the future. As our Global Capacity Report has shown, our capacity continues to grow, which provides us with more opportunities to help improve efficiencies in the overall supply chain.

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Brookshire’s Food Store
Glen Rose, Texas
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