5 Challenges Facing the National Food Supply Chain

Food Supply Chain

Getting food shipments from point A to point B, especially when it comes to long-distance shipments, can be particularly difficult. With so many different impediments wreaking havoc on the national food supply chain, it can often feel more than just tricky.

In this article, we will dive into the top 5 most pressing issues with which the national food supply chain must contend.


The National Food Supply Chain and the Traceability and Visibility Hurdles it Faces

The words “visibility” and “traceability” are thrown around a lot when discussing supply chains. However, this area of logistics is absolutely crucial, and it is often underemphasized, especially when it comes to the food supply chain.

Not too long ago, most consumers didn’t think much about where their food came from or even what was contained in said food. In fact, many families would simply pick up whatever meats, veggies, fruits, and grains were in season at the store and head home to cook it without a second thought.

However, our understanding and appreciation of diet have changed significantly in the last few decades. Now, many consumers want to know exactly where their food came from and exactly how it was grown and/or processed. Stores and restaurants that are able to provide satisfactory answers to these questions tend to prosper, while those that can’t are losing business rapidly.

When it comes to the food industry, having visibility and traceability present throughout the entire process can be particularly challenging. Knowing exactly where something was grown, how it was handled, and many other factors can be hard information to come by. But if those involved with the national food supply chain want to remain in the public’s good graces, they’ll need to invest in more effective technology and logistics methods to keep tabs on all parts of the supply chain.

Facing visibility issues in your multi-tiered supply chain? Read this article


Poor Inventory Control

When it comes to many industries, it’s not usually an issue if goods sit on shelves or in trucks for a little bit longer than anticipated.

However, this is not the case when it comes to food. If the inventory is not managed very specifically, spoilage, food waste, and unhappy customers will often be the result. 

Therefore, food supply chains need to invest in effective systems that allow them to manage their warehouse space and their inventory. 


Temperature-Controlled Shipping Hurdles

As was mentioned in the previous section: food is temperamental. During the shipping process, food must be kept at perfect temperatures in order to avoid loss of inventory and to ensure that the shipment is received by stores at a time when it is still fresh.

This means that the cold chain must be involved with most food deliveries. The cold chain is an especially complex component of the national food supply system, and it is one that needs to be optimized if the food supply chain is to overcome its many challenges.

Thankfully, cold storage trends indicate that technology is enabling temperature monitoring from warehouses through delivery, with sensors warnings drivers in their cab when the temperature moves outside of set thresholds, so any problems with a truck's reefer (refrigeration) unit can be dealt with promptly, potentially saving a refrigerated load.


Carrier Capacity Issues 

There is no simple answer for what has caused the carrier capacity issues within the food supply chain.

In fact, one could point to labor shortages, high demand for certain food products, and a number of other reasons that have led to the capacity issues we are now witnessing. 

Regardless, this is one problem that needs to be addressed as quickly as possible. As simple as it may sound, transparency is likely the best way to combat this specific issue. In some cases, certain shipments may be late or may not arrive at all due to unforeseen circumstances, affecting carriers and other parts of the supply chain. Being transparent with other members of the supply chain and with customers can help to alleviate some of the stress of these carrier capacity problems.


High Costs

Unfortunately, we are seeing higher prices for virtually everything in the world today. Food, gas, clothing, and even wages are rising steadily. The reasons for the higher cost of everything are complex and multidimensional. But higher prices are our current reality, and we need to find ways to contend with them. 

Food supply chains must find ways to cut costs without sacrificing quality or safety. This is a tricky balance to strike, but one that is essential for the survival of this system.


Untangling the Issues Facing the National Food Supply Chain Doesn't Have to be so Complicated

The world is an unforgiving place, and this appears to be especially true in our current age. 

When it comes to the national food supply chain, the challenges are particularly glaring. Supply chain professionals involved with food and other perishable goods have to deal with high costs, carrier capacity issues, temperature-related problems, inventory control hurdles, and a lack of traceability/visibility. Not to mention, we have natural disasters and other global issues that seem to be occurring more and more frequently, which always throw wrenches into all of our supply chains. 

Even though the outlook for our national food supply chain may seem grim, hope springs eternal. Many logistics companies have devised solutions for a number of these issues, and they continue to figure out new ways to combat the challenges with which they are presented every day.

Technology and ingenuity have helped us get to this point in our human history, and they will continue to do so as time goes by. Our food supply chain will survive and thrive; it may just take a bit of extra work to get there.

Looking for a partner to help improve your food supply chain? Explore Redwood's full suite of food and beverage solutions, from freight management, to brokerage, to tech visibility solutions.