With consumers demanding greater traceability, flexibility, and freshness in food and beverage transportation, we talk to Etihad Cargo’s Fabrice Panzo on its world-class perishables transportation services.
“Today’s food and beverage supply chain is more complex than ever,” said Fabrice Panza, manager Global Cool Chain Solutions at Etihad. “As consumers demand increasing traceability and transparency relating to where their food is grown and how it is manufactured and transported, food growers and manufacturers are still recovering from the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting volatile business environment and supply chain disruptions.”
Traceability is critical for the food and beverage industry because tracking a product’s journey – from production through to processing and distribution – is critical to maintaining food safety and operational efficiency.
“Robust traceability and tracking enable Etihad Cargo to deliver perishables in the best possible condition,” Panza said. “We work with our cients to help them be competitive through embracing digital traceability and validating the authenticity of product safety, provenance and health or sustainability claims. Etihad Cargo’s processes and technologies are integral parts of helping clients meet these challenges.”
Panza noted that the pandemic brought with it considerable changes in consumer behaviour, with greater uptake of e-commerce and a concomitant shift to smaller perishables shipments requiring smaller express services levels.
There are a number of critical factors to consider when it comes to transporting fresh food successfully and with full traceability, Panza said – chiefly variable environmental temperatures, distance, and time.
“When handling perishables, the clock starts ticking the moment food is harvested and produced, so Etihad Cargo manages each step – including acceptance of the product and moving it to the cool room, then moving the product from the cool room to the aircraft, and upon arrival at the destination to moving the perishables from the aircraft to the cool room or sending it directly out for delivery to the consignee – to the minute.”
Etihad Cargo constantly monitors lead times and utilises specialised thermal covers to reduce temperature variability resulting from environmental conditions both outside the cool room and inside the aircraft hold. All Etihad Cargo’s employees also receive extensive training, as highly trained staff are essential to maintaining the quality of perishables throughout their journey.
Etihad Cargo Freshforward
Etihad Cargo ships a wide and diverse range of perishable products, including fruits and vegetables, fish and seafood, flowers, meat, chocolate, seed, plants, egg and dairy – such as cheese – with its FreshForward service.
Features of Freshforward include:
- Expedited ramp handling at all points;
- Late priority despath from storage facilities to the aircraft;
- A dedicated perishables centres in Abu Dhabi;
- Temperature-controlled storage facilities;
- Shipments transported from aircraft to storage facilities done on a priority basis;
- Specific temperatures set for ULD containers; and
- Stringent food safety management protocols with Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) methodology.
“Every member of Etihad Cargo’s team follows strict protocols to control the temperature of perishables shipments,” noted Panzi. “Additionally, all of Etihad Cargo’s cool rooms are equipped with alarmed temperature-monitoring systems and are calibrated every 12 months. Every critical point throughout the perishables journey is temperature checked, and the results are recorded in Abu Dhabi, offering our clients full transparency and traceability of shipments.”
Reopening after COVID
As markets around the world are re-opening, Etihad Cargo’s customers are looking for more capacity and more opportunities to access those markets as quickly and efficiently as possible, so they can gain market share against their worldwide competitors who are already supplying those markets, according to Panzi.
“Etihad Cargo is exploring ways of providing more capacity with our existing fleet and the new aircraft that will be joining our fleet this year,” he said. “Etihad Cargo has worked to ensure key trade lanes have remained active, recovering over 90 per cent of our pre-COVID network and rotations, and we currently service 72 network destinations across the Middle East, Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia and the Americas. Our active fleet of 65 aircraft operates 430 weekly rotations and hundreds of annual charter flights that service demand across non-network destinations.
“We will also open a new cool chain centre located right next to our current warehouse in the next few months. This state-of-the-art facility will double Etihad Cargo’s cool chain capacity and capabilities. While manufacturing is not currently one of Etihad Cargo’s activities, warehousing, monitoring and cross-docking with specific cool chain equipment most certainly are.
“Etihad Cargo’s new cool chain facility will enhance our FreshForward product offering and will benefit the perishables community with increased capacity, as well as providing a smoother transfer to Etihad Cargo’s FreshForward trucks when the products need to be delivered in the UAE or handed over to the consignee at Abu Dhabi Airport.
Etihad Cargo’s commitment to providing world-class perishables transportation services is why it sought out and achieved International Air Transport Association (IATA)’s Center of Excellence for Independent Validators (CEIV) Fresh certification. In 2019, Etihad Cargo became the first Middle East airline to hold both IATA CEIV Fresh and Pharma certifications and one of only two carriers globally to have achieved this dual honour in the same year.
“Being IATA CEIV Fresh-certified demonstrates Etihad Cargo’s compliance with Perishable Cargo Regulations (PCR), ensuring food safety, reducing waste, reinforcing trust and enabling us, in partnership with our customers, to implement best practices across all required cold chain solutions.”