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Cold Chain Federation looks ahead to 2024

13 December 2023

PHIL PLUCK became chief executive of the Cold Chain Federation in November 2023, bringing to the federation a wealth of experience from his leadership roles at professional membership bodies in various sectors. Here, he answers our questions about the cold chain industry and its federation.

Q. Is the UK cold chain starting 2024 in a strong position?

The UK cold chain has shown great strength and resilience throughout the crises and uncertainty of the past five years, and there is a lot to be optimistic about as we look to 2024 and beyond. 

Nationally, emphasis on food safety and food chain resilience has undoubtedly grown, and there is a much greater appreciation now among UK politicians, media and the public about the crucial role of the cold chain in accessing safe food and pharmaceuticals. Within the supply chain, major supermarkets are placing greater value on resilient, reliable UK partners, too.

However, cold chain operators are also facing significant current challenges, not least continued high energy costs, uncertainty over the direction of policy and regulation, and challenges around recruitment. 

As we begin 2024, the focus on improving the sustainability of logistics and of the food supply chain is very strong. Efficient, low carbon temperature-controlled storage and distribution are critical to this broader challenge, which brings our industry both challenge and opportunity. In recent years the Cold Chain Federation has provided CCF members with a valuable and unique bank of resources, advice, representation and leadership on sustainability and we will continue to ensure operators are well supported.

Q. What key changes can the cold chain expect in 2024?

This year we can see significant change stemming from a new Government administration following a general election. Regulation, legislation and Government strategy have substantial influence over what the cold chain can do and how we operate day-to-day. The Cold Chain Federation is ensuring that our industry is on the front foot, engaging with both the Government and The Opposition on our key issues.

Our industry must acquire a comprehensive understanding of the next Government’s strategy on logistics and sustainability, as that becomes clear. Over 2023, the Government stance on net zero weakened; in 2024 a new administration of either party may well reverse that approach. 

Q. What is the longer-term outlook for the UK cold chain?

Cold chain technology is moving forward rapidly, it will bring fantastic opportunities for greater efficiency and increased resilience in meeting the UK’s future temperature-controlled logistics needs. With a growing population and in a warming world, the cold chain’s role in enabling the safe and efficient supply of food and pharma will become more critical than ever, as will our industry’s major contribution towards minimising food waste and averting the carbon impact of that waste. 

However we do need to be prepared for continued uncertainty, particularly regarding the impacts on the UK cold chain of wider global economic pressures. We will not know for some time the impacts on the UK economy of global factors such as war, oil price volatility, and geopolitical shifts. The Cold Chain Federation has an important role in identifying and communicating to our members the impacts on cold chain operators of these global events as well as the effects of changes in the UK economy. 

Q. What can we expect from the Cold Chain Federation in 2024?

The UK cold chain industry has unique opportunities and challenges, and as its federation we will continue to ensure our industry has its own strong voice as we work for a fair deal and the best support. We will develop a UK Cold Chain Manifesto this year, setting out our industry’s key priorities and engaging on those topics with politicians and policy makers. 

In 2024 we will build on the unique cold chain sustainability expertise and insights that the federation has now developed, particularly through the application of our exclusive data to inform and support our members’ businesses and the industry as a whole. We are also looking forward to increasing the business support services we provide for smaller and medium sized operators. 

For more information, visit www.coldchainfederation.org.uk