What Does 2024 Hold for Food & Beverage Shippers?

With its perennial issues of product perishability, temperature controls and delivery timeliness, food and beverage logistics has never been an easy undertaking. Now the new year brings a fresh slate of challenges for the world’s food and beverage shippers. With decades of specialized industry expertise and hands-on experience moving consumable goods, Redwood takes a look at the biggest issues in the food and beverage industry this year.   

Logistics Complexity Threatens to Take a Bite Out of Profits 

Labor shortages, rising fuel costs and growing customer expectations will continue to pressure profitability this year. Food and beverage manufacturers are grappling with the challenge of delivering more products directly to consumers’ homes, balancing high service levels with the high costs of last-mile delivery. Many companies are realizing that it’s nearly impossible to accomplish this profitably with their existing tools and processes.  

Extreme weather events, ongoing geopolitical instability and trade barriers will also make the work of logistics teams more challenging in 2024. When managing perishable products, it’s essential to achieve predictable transportation results, even in unpredictable conditions. It’s critical to recognize and mitigate disruptions at the earliest opportunity, pivoting both strategically and profitably in response. Again, many companies are beginning this year with a growing sense that their current logistics practices and technology may not be up to managing these complex challenges.    

We recently spoke with a Transportation Manager at an enterprise Food & Beverage company about the tough situation food and beverage shippers find themselves in today. “Our biggest challenges include freight market volatility, including fluctuations in fuel and other costs, as well as general economic uncertainty,” he said. “Demand volatility is also a huge challenge. It’s clear we’ve shifted from a supply-driven environment to a demand-driven one. But how do we plan and keep pace with demand changes?”

While our contact pointed out that artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies seem promising, he noted that technology adoption can itself form an obstacle. “How do shippers select the right technology to keep pace with changing conditions — and lean into it?” he added.   

These challenges are nothing new for Redwood, which has decades of hands-on experience in the global food and beverage industry. From multimodal transportation and warehousing to freight brokerage services and proprietary technology, Redwood has what it takes to address the complexities of 2024 and beyond. With an unmatched ability to optimize both cost and service levels, Redwood is already helping many of the world’s food and beverage leaders master their difficult logistics challenges — and you can directly benefit from this expertise.

Consumers and Regulators Thirst for Sustainability 

With a growing awareness of climate change, both shoppers and legislators are looking closely at the environmental practices of food and beverage manufacturers. From sustainable agricultural and production practices to recyclable packaging, consumers are becoming more conscious of manufacturers’ environmental impacts when they make their product choices. And regulators are enacting tighter sustainability regulations every day. 

Of course, first- to last-mile logistics plays an enormous role in sustainability. But emissions and other impacts can be challenging for food and beverage companies to track, especially when their supply chains span multiple continents and multiple supplier tiers.

Redwood can help, with its proprietary Hyperion solution that’s purpose-built to support carbon neutrality. This one-of-a-kind solution provides automated, detailed, load-by-load emissions calculations, along with robust reporting capabilities. Food and beverage producers can not only monitor and reduce their carbon footprints, but easily communicate their sustainability results to consumers, regulators and other stakeholders.

Manufacturers Face a Menu of Emerging Challenges 

Each year seems to highlight new logistics challenges, and 2024 is no exception. Here are a few emerging pressures food and beverage manufactures should be aware of this year: 

  • Innovative products require special handling. One of the biggest developments in the global food industry is the growing popularity of plant-based and cultured meat alternatives. While these products offer health and sustainability benefits, they’re also introducing new storage and transportation requirements. Make sure your transportation team is in synch with your product development team as your company introduces any innovations. 
  • Food safety is in the spotlight. It seems like every day brings new headlines about food safety, contamination and product recalls. In today’s competitive food and beverage landscape, even one mistake can prove disastrous in terms of establishing consumer confidence and loyalty. The world’s logistics teams need to be hyper-vigilant in ensuring food safety and quality, applying best handling practices, and complying with government regulations. 
  • Network models are evolving. More companies are exploring reshoring and nearshoring, as they recognize the benefits of shifting production closer to consumers. Logistics teams need to play a big role in any reimagining of the supply chain model. New transportation routes, distribution networks and delivery practices will be required — and companies need to understand and factor in these impacts from the earliest stages of network redesign.  
  • Advanced technologies are in the spotlight. Automation and AI have justifiably become industry buzzwords, thanks to their ability to increase efficiency and reduce costs. But these advanced technologies need to be integrated strategically into logistics operations, with a full understanding of hidden costs such as job displacement and workforce retraining. 

Redwood Serves Up the Capabilities You Need 

Food and beverage manufacturers have a lot on their plates in 2024. The great news is that Redwood offers the comprehensive capabilities they need to optimize their logistics operations for both cost and service, despite these challenges. From powerful technology solutions to expert managed services, Redwood offers the proven industry expertise that food and beverage manufacturers are hungering for.

Ready to kick off the new year with a new outlook on logistics — and new capabilities that prepare you for the future, no matter what that future holds? Reach out to Redwood, and start optimizing your food and beverage logistics results today. 

Gearing up for Food Shippers of America 2024? Find our booth location, activities, and helpful resources here.