The coming months will be challenging for our food supply chain as rapid escalating energy prices add to the continuing shortage of labour availability, new Brexit import checks and Covid related absences in key roles. However, the fundamental change we are seeing in food supply chain structures is a shift in how businesses view their supply chains. There is new appreciation that there are limits to what is achievable, greater value given to certainty in supply, and a new context for crucial conversations about future supply chain resilience.

Tom Southall
Policy Director, Cold Chain Federation

For the cold chain, future resilience must be about people, about systems and about investments. But it is also absolutely dependent on progress towards net zero.

As COP26 comes to a close and the UK aims for a net zero economy by 2050, there is no doubt that all sectors need a clear strategy for adapting to the requirements of net zero. The Cold Chain Federation is working with our members and other specialists to explore the opportunities and challenges and to identify a realistic pathway to a net zero UK cold chain. Strategic thinking and early preparation alongside the right support from Government will help minimise disruption and improve the commercial outlook for the inescapable changes required.

As well as improving the energy efficiency of cold stores, the cold chain will need to minimise emissions from temperature-controlled vehicles. Minimising emissions from Transport Refrigeration Units (TRUs) in particular is a complex but important challenge which is why we have focused our latest net zero publication on planning for emission-free vehicle refrigeration.

Our new report details the actions and timeframes for how we can transition away from TRUs reliant on diesel power and high GWP (Global Warming Potential) refrigerants, to emission-free alternatives. Our report shows how cold chain operators can reach emission-free vehicle refrigeration in two phases, resulting in no vehicle using a diesel powered TRU operating on UK roads after 31 December 2039. However our report also makes very clear that this ambition is only achievable if Government plays its part too.

To give fleet operators confidence in selecting new TRU technologies, Government must provide more detail on the adaptation of the power and transport network, and which technologies will be supported by infrastructural investment.

Currently, lower or emission free TRUs are generally more expensive in upfront cost than a diesel auxiliary powered option. There are opportunities in offsetting upfront cost against running costs but the lifespan and resale opportunities for new technologies is hard to quantify reliably. This is why the Cold Chain Federation is calling for targeted Government financial support such as buying incentives on zero emission TRU technology, grants for early adopters, tax incentives, and support on the huge costs associated with grid connections for electric chargers.

As the food supply chain emerges from 2 years of flux, we have the opportunity to build sustainability into the reshaped cold chain. The Cold Chain Federation is committed to leading the discussions on the transition towards a net zero cold chain.

Read the report at


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