Cool Logistics Global

How to handle the changing demands of the global logistics market

Jan Debailli, Group Logistics Director of Ardo Group, together with Thomas Eskesen, of Eskesen Advisory and Joachin Coens, CEO of the Port of Zeebrugge, spoke at the latest edition of Cool Logistics, held in Bruges, and shared their points of view on how global logistics is changing and on the efforts being made to bring products to customers all over the world.

According to Debailli, for the French Ardo Group, devoted to the production of frozen vegetables, work starts at the field, where it has contracts with growers, “Of course we have the logistics to bring all these products to our customers, which includes small parties in the supply chain as well as big traders. 95% of what we sell is controlled under our own system.”

Jan Debailli, Group Logistics Director, Ardo Group

A big topic is sustainability, and the company’s philosophy is to deliver maximum output with minimum impact. “The way we contract the business, from farm to factory, is revolutionary. The key is to bring the products as fast as possible from the field to the frozen state. The more sustainable you go, the fewer problems you encounter.”

In this sense, one of the big guarantees from Ardo Group is that products will never take more than 150 minutes to travel from field to the factory, which is a speed that can never be achieved with fresh produce according to Debailli. He stresses that, to achieve this, the company needs plenty of facilities to distribute the products, and in fact, long-haul transport is decreasing.

In Europe, it is important to know that frozen vegetables account for 7 to 8% of the consumption, while canned products are losing ground to fresh and frozen. "In any case, the growing market is overseas, particularly the United States, Canada and especially Australia. Europe has an enormous range of vegetables, and in countries like the U.S., organic products are becoming huge as an export product. For the new programme next year, we’ll try to double our volume in organic food,” explains Debailli.

Thomas Eskesen, Eskesen Advisory

Thomas Eskesen, of Eskesen Advisory, told of how much the container industry has changed over the past 10 years, not just in terms of volume, but also with issues such as tracking and traceability, with people now demanding real time information. "This, combined with other factors that have come into the picture over the past decade, such as food safety or global warming, has had a great impact on the way customers make trade transactions worldwide.”

Joachin Coens, CEO of the Port of Zeebrugge, said that nowadays, over 50% of traffic in the port corresponds to containerised goods going to destinations in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and America, and he wonders about how the industry will change in the rest of the century. “There are definitely changes in consumer habits and demands; people, for example, in India, are moving to larger cities, and this is something that will create a greater need for frozen foods from abroad. The question is how we’ll handle that.”

Other trends have to do with what we, as consumers, accept as a definition for good food, which also shapes the local agro-industry, giving rise to new methods or new production possibilities. “Changes in demography are also important to follow, to find out where there will be demand, where people have more purchasing power or how needs change.”

Joachin Coens, CEO, Port of Zeebrugge

Coens assures that, “While with globalisation you’d expect things to be the same everywhere, I believe there will be greater challenges in product diversification, which of course would bring the same challenges to the logistics. The problem is that we have to plan long-term investments, when the situation is always quickly changing.”

When it comes to the different logistics models possible, he states that both a model of further concentration, with use of larger container vessels, and a smaller one targeted to quality niche markets will be compatible, making it possible to have dedicated services for specific niches.

"That is something we have already started developing in the first part of the 21st century in the port of Zeebrugge.”

To cover the needs of these niche markets, Coens assures that being flexible in the use of intermodal transport will be essential in the long term; that is, to combine sea and air freight, trains and roads in an intelligent way. "In this context, ports must look to bring different people to work together and see how to cover new demands, how to facilitate market access, how to enforce safety standards and how we can open to new business opportunities. All of us have a role to play in that intermodal activity," he concludes.

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