A Guide to Specialty Gourmet Foods Distribution Best Practices

July 21, 2022

A Guide to Specialty Gourmet Foods Distribution Best Practices


Port Jersey Logistics

Now more than ever, consumers rely on easy and reliable access to food and beverage (F&B), which depends on efficient F&B logistics management. They expect to find cases of products on the shelves when they go shopping or have orders delivered to their door. Shipping and specialty food distribution services remain critical to the recovery due to COVID-19 and related disruptions. Everything from warehousing and distribution to improved supply chain management relies on specialized distribution and services. Among the niche markets that have seen an increase in demand during the pandemic shutdowns, gourmet food distributors have surprisingly seen some of the sharpest rises in consumer interest.

According to Food Safety Magazine, "the U.S. distribution chain includes more than 15,000 companies operating thousands of warehouses and fleets of trucks. A typical broad-line foodservice distributor may serve from 1,000 to 6,000 accounts from a single distribution center and offer customers more than 10,000 food and non-food items." Specialty food distributors serve as the intermediary between manufacturers and foodservice operators. As demand for specialty food distribution rises, managers, distributors, and logistics teams specializing in these services must work closely with each other. Managing gourmet food distributor relationships and protocols is vital to continued growth and recovery in food transportation.

Storage and Transportation Considerations For Specialty F&B Freight 

Like all other food and beverage services, specialty food distribution depends on fast and reliable transportation and distribution practices. Many consider the transportation process and network to be an extension of storage. Any container that holds items is essentially storage, whether short or long-term. A refrigerated truck is cold storage on wheels, and gourmet food distributors often require these specialized freight shipping and storage services. Likewise, specially designed food warehouses accommodate food and drink freight and cargo.

A significant amount of planning and coordination is needed to ensure the correct handling of gourmet F&B loads and that they arrive at the final destination in good condition. Wholesale gourmet food distributors benefit from the following features and services:

  • Monitoring reefer trucks - carefully monitoring gourmet food and beverages is critical as it will ensure the products arrive unspoiled and safe for consumption.
  • Real-time control of settings - keeping tabs on specialty food distribution services and shipment operations is critical, and real-time controls are becoming increasingly popular.
  • Automated notifications - shippers, logistics managers, and customers alike need to get notified when delays or other issues arise sooner rather than later.
  • Specialized safety protocols - local and global issues such as COVID-19and other health and safety problems must be considered and planned for as much as possible.
  • Auto alerts for disruptions - a customizable set of parameters can allow shippers and gourmet food distributors to get notified when specific criteria or parameters are met.
  • Inspecting fleet and equipment - keeping up with maintenance will help ensure safe and timely delivery by reducing breakdowns and limiting issues during transport.
  • Specialized packaging and handling - gourmet and specialty food and drinks often need packaging and handling considerations that are unique and specifically designed.

Keeping up with the ins and outs of specialty food distribution, shipment, and management involved many moving parts, especially during the transportation and handling of fancy food and drinks.

Problems and Vulnerabilities With Cold Chain Shipping and Distribution

While food safety is a priority for every reputable specialty food distributor, it is an aspect of food delivery and accessibility that many consumers do not give much thought to regularly. Maintaining the cold chain from farm to fork is challenging to say the least. The number of problems that can arise during specialty food distribution leaves the driver and the team vulnerable to a failed delivery. Wholesale gourmet food distributors have a lot on their plate, so they need to note and address common problems and vulnerabilities before they can cause significant disruptions. Here are some common issues gourmet food distributors need to watch out for today:

  • Spoilage of product - Various problems can arise during transportation that can cause the food to spoil. Any hiccup in temperature control or climate stabilization can cause the same impact on perishable goods and render the entire load unusable.
  • Damage to cargo - It is crucial to ensure the cargo is loaded correctly. The shipment must be tightly secured and placed in the trailer per any special instructions from the gourmet food distributors or the end retailer relationship client.
  • Improper handling and storage - Adequate storage temperatures and handling are also vital to ensure no cross-contamination. Logistics service providers should handle the cargo carefully to ensure no temperature drop or humidity damage to the product.
  • Delivery delays - There are many obstacles facing specialty food distribution and shipping. A vetted driver is critical to ensure delays are minimized and dealt with accordingly. Communication with the customer and team members is vital.
  • Poor climate controls - Reefer trucks are equipped with systems to manage temperature and humidity to keep food and drink at the appropriate levels. Quality gourmet food distributors ensure their climate control system is always in good working order.
  • Rejection by the customer -Many consumers don't entirely understand specialty food distribution and the minor yet unavoidable issues that may arise. As a result, even the slightest delay can stir customers' concerns regarding the cargo's location, status, and condition.

Overcoming common issues such as these is a normal part of the distribution process for F&B service markets, especially those dealing with gourmet and high-end products that require even more skill and attention to detail through thick and thin.

Areas of Food Safety Risk Gourmet Food Distributors Should Prioritize

Specialty food distribution is very similar to the cold chain shipping process and refrigerated preparation, storage, and distribution cycle. This unique shipping process involves highly specialized equipment and logistics for direct store deliveries to sustain a specified low temperature or freeze point for the specified cargo. With a well-trained and knowledgeable team following a detailed food safety policy and procedures guidelines, the final delivery will arrive fresh and in good condition. Food distribution managers must consider the following carefully when planning routes, scheduling pick-up and drop-offs, and matching drivers to specific loads:

  • Eliminating food-borne pathogens - Having staff properly trained in food safety will ensure food-borne pathogens cannot thrive and will not contaminate food shipments.
  • Keeping warehouses and trucks sanitized - It is essential to ensure proper cleaning and sanitation of the facilities and equipment used by gourmet food distributors and shippers.
  • Using food-grade materials and tools - Not all materials and tools are safe for use on food items and are something that needs careful regulation within F&B shipments. 
  • Avoiding allergen concerns - Besides pathogens and food contamination, specialty food distribution must also watch for allergen and similar contamination issues.
  • Ensuring the freshness of goods - Maintaining the cold chain with specialized services and parameters from gourmet food distributors ensures goods arrive fresh and whole.

Specialty food distribution, along with other food and beverage-focused services and shipping options, makes it easier for consumers to get the gourmet food and drinks they want and need with less hassle and less worry about the availability and quality of imported goods.

Successful Specialty Food Distribution Is a Matter of Balance

Specialty food distributors, along with cold chain logistics companies, are an essential part of food and beverage transportation in the world today. Many regulatory agencies oversee this industry due to human health and safety involvement.

These agencies put forth strict policies and guidelines for inbound and outbound logistics, food and safety, and shipping. Everyone involved in the process, from warehouse managers to office personnel to the drivers, will need to be thoroughly trained to ensure they follow these food and beverage policies.

This process will be time-consuming and costly upfront. However, the investment into solid and reliable operations and partnerships will ensure that gourmet food distributors see continued success, despite market volatility within the specialty food distribution and sales markets. 

Balancing the many moving parts, keeping all disparate data streams in order, improving inventory management, and organizing different teams and third parties is a challenge but remains the key to success within the food and beverage distribution industry.

Enhance Specialty Food Distribution and Gourmet Food Distributor Transportation Services With the Right Insight and Guidance

Working with industry leaders and professionals remains a priority when specialty food distribution and shipping services are needed. Finding a company with an award-winning 3PL service provider to help balance the logistics of such specialized food and beverage transportation will ensure more on-time, in-full deliveries. A good company that involves the shipper and the customer is pivotal for short- and long-term success within the specialty food logistics industry and shipping market. Partnering with an industry expert with experience with gourmet food distributors, shippers, and retailers will ensure ongoing success and continued growth. Contact Port Jersey Logistics today and see why their services are invaluable to wholesale gourmet food distributors.

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