Over the past two years, the pre-existing limitations of UK cold storage capacity have been thrown into sharp relief by stockpiling in preparation for Brexit deadlines and disruption, and by the impact of Covid restrictions on the movement of chilled and frozen food.
These disruptions have been very challenging for the cold chain commercially, with dramatic fluctuations for different customer sectors and peaks of very high demand for cold storage space. The UK cold chain has been a model of cool-headed resilience – working together, responding to changes by the hour, and identifying temporary solutions to keep food safe, reliable in its availability, and moving to the right places.
While these challenges have brought new awareness of our industry’s purpose and why it matters so much, demand for cold storage has in fact been quietly outstripping supply for some time. Our buoyant industry had already become a focus for serious international investment pre-2020, and as a result cold storage capacity continues to grow apace.
In October 2020 we published the first ever comprehensive analysis of UK cold storage facilities, in partnership with Savills. This found that while UK cold storage space for chilled and frozen food stood at over 134 million sq ft, there was a further 16.7 million sq ft already under construction or being fitted out, set to increase total capacity by more than 10%.
This is the first time that this information on cold storage capacity has been researched and published. Temperature-controlled storage facilities can of course vary greatly, but having this well-researched, informative overview of our industry is a real asset. Its insights can help those within and outside our industry to have a better understanding of the size, scale, trends and value of temperature-controlled logistics in the UK. Not least, the clear picture of what storage capacity there is and where it is located is beneficial in explaining our industry, its value and its needs to government.
The Cold Chain Federation is gathering a panel of experts on 21 April to discuss cold chain capacity, areas of opportunity, and the long-term outlook in the context of net zero commitments, changing food supply chains, and Brexit. Panellists include speakers from Dexion, Savills, Constellation Cold Logistics, Rabobank, Global Cold Chain Alliance, and Wageningen University. To join us, register for Cold Chain Space Race at www.coldchainfederation.org.uk.