Futuristic Supermarket
Technology

Future foods: The changing shape of the cold supply chain

There are some remarkable things happening in food technology right now. Blending entrepreneurial spirit, science and sustainability, these incredible cold chain innovations have the potential to significantly cut the cost of transporting and storing fresh foods. And, while they may feel futuristic right now, just think back to when canned food first hit the shelves. Today’s trailblazing ideas may just be the next big thing to hit the mainstream.

 

From MATS to ASAP, these are the acronyms you need to know

A number of game-changing technologies have caught my eye recently. The first is Microwave Assisted Thermal Sterilization (MATS). It’s been under development for a few years now, along with the Microwave-Assisted Pasteurisation System (MAPS), in the quest to make food products of comparable quality and price to fresh products, while keeping them unquestionably safe.

In a nutshell, MATS works by preheating, microwave heating, holding and cooling a food product that’s already contained within packaging, and the packaging is immersed in water. You can explore the technicalities of MATS in this helpful article.

Then there’s Farther Farms, which is doing some amazing work with its food technologies to remove the need for chilled or frozen supply chains. Its flagship product is the “shelf-stable fry” – a fresh-cut French fry potato chip that, to quote its website, “combines the deliciousness of fresh-cut with flexibility for food service around the world.” In other words, it’s like a fresh product but needs no refrigeration or freezing.

The Farther Farms technology has once proven to be transferable if applied to fruit, vegetables, dairy, meat and plant-based alternatives, opening up myriad new opportunities for food producers to bring their products to market safely and more cost-effectively.

And, finally, one we’re excited to have reported on recently. We worked with Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) to review an incredible new thermal processing technology called Advanced Sous Vide Aseptic Packaging (ASAP), which is being developed by Hong Kong-based IXON Food Technology. As its name suggests, this technology sterilises food and enhances shelf life using sophisticated sous vide principles and aseptic sterilisation techniques.

ASAP has the potential to be used with fresh meats such as sirloin beef, lamb and pork chops, delivering a fresh, juicy eating experience with a long ambient shelf life of up to two years. It could be a real game-changer for the meat industry, potentially opening access to new markets, eliminating the need for cold chain storage and logistics, and reducing food waste.

You can read our full report on ASAP here, but to summarise, we found huge potential in this technology – and, while regulatory acceptance and consumer education will be key, it’s certainly one to watch for the future of the cold supply chain.

 

What does it all mean for brands?

As a customer-obsessed former senior retail executive, my first thoughts with all these new technologies are, “Will consumers accept it? Will they understand and buy food presented in this way? How do we communicate the benefits to them?”

Then, my thoughts turn to the new possibilities. What if we can transport more products at ambient temperatures to reduce the impact on the environment, while reaching wider markets, and delivering the products in a format that’s delicious and appealing to consumers? How amazing would that be!

At a simple level, these new technologies have the potential to remove the need for things like polystyrene insulated boxes or costly refrigerated trucks. The ability to deliver premium cuts of meat around the world – into far-flung places like the UAE or the UK – without having to add a prohibitive mark-up to cover transport costs is going to open up huge new opportunities for Australian producers.

We are teetering on the brink of the next food revolution. Question is, will you be ready to embrace it? If you have any questions about the above technologies and how they could be applied in your business, get in touch today.

 

Thank you to my colleague & Prof Consulting Associate Jane Rodway for her contribution to the report and to MLA for the opportunity to better understand the potential magic of ASAP technology.