The bakery goods supply chain has its own set of rules. IFCO’s Brown Lift Lock RPC has been specially developed to master the unique distribution demands of freshly baked, packaged and frozen bread products.
However, the popularity of this staple food is also responsible for huge volumes of food waste. Whether purchased fresh, pre-packaged or baked in store from frozen dough, bread tops the list of the most wasted household food. Consumers throw away nearly one in four of the bakery goods they buy, according to statistics from the 2019 "Food Waste Hotspots" report commissioned by UK retail giant, Tesco. There is a race against the clock for distributors to ship, retailers to sell and consumers to eat bread or other bakery products before they dry out, get moldy or go stale.
"We want to be sure that our customers are prepared for future challenges, so we always keep an eye on current trends and continuously develop our products further," says Michael Pooley, CEO of IFCO SYSTEMS. "The IFCO Brown Lift Lock is suitable for fresh bakery products, as well as for storing frozen bakery products. So it offers the possibility of delivering frozen goods, which are baked on-site, to retail outlets and bakeries."
The different ways of producing bread also affect its shelf life. For example, artisan products are baked from scratch and have a one-to-two-day shelf life. So does freshly baked industrial bread. In recent years, with convenience in mind, consumers increasingly choose industrially produced "bake-off" products. This is when pre-shaped and deep-frozen dough is delivered to retailers. Then it is defrosted and "baked-off" in the store or bakery premises. This "thaw and serve" process keeps dough fresher longer, and it provides customers with warm, oven-fresh bread. Pre-packaged bread with additives or preservatives has a longer shelf life, often maintaining its freshness a week or more.
Fresh bread presents one of the toughest distribution channels in the supply chain. Industrial bakeries dispatch hundreds of thousands of loaves daily to several thousand sales outlets. Each of these has two sales peaks – one early morning and one late afternoon. Consumers want the freshest bread possible, and they want full shelves even when it is just before a store’s closing time. This means that while other fresh food supply chains can plan according to days or weeks, a large baker usually has to plan in terms of hours, and even minutes. Bread is often delivered to supermarkets on a sale-or-return basis, which means that return transport and logistics also play a role. Single-use packaging is less suitable for multiple trips, as it can be easily crushed or weakened through moisture.
The IFCO Brown Lift Lock extends the advantages of sturdy RPC packaging to bread and contributes to sustainable operations. Not only is it one of the only foldable bakery crates on the market, but its ultra-flat folded profile saves space when empty and during returns. Since IFCO Brown Lift Lock containers are foldable, bakers need much less storage space than with rigid constructions. And, through IFCO’s share and reuse principle, solid waste is reduced. This supports the aim of the circular economy to lower consumption of finite resources by keeping products and materials in use rather than disposing of materials after a single use.
In the bread supply chain, reducing packaging waste through reusable packaging is already a well-established practice, as the baking industry seeks to minimize the environmental burden of baked-goods distribution – recruiting low emissions vehicles, and efficient route planning, according to UK-based Federation of Bakers Ltd. Thanks to the low folded profile of the Brown Lift Lock, returning IFCO RPCs lowers transport volume and emissions, as fewer truckloads are needed. This generates a cost advantage and improves the ecological footprint of bakers as well as retailers.
According to Industry Today, the global market for bakery products is expected to exceed USD 570 billion by 2024. Companies are increasingly using automation to meet this growing demand. With their standardized footprint, IFCO RPCs accommodate this trend as well, as their superior stackability and stable construction protect soft and easily damaged bread products.
Nearly a century ago, pre-sliced, wrapped white bread caused a sensation among US consumers. Even today, when referring to great ideas, Americans say that a new product is "the best thing since sliced bread" – or, as the original phrase first stated, "the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped." And, as trends for bread and bakery goods continue to evolve, IFCO Brown Lift Lock will reliably carry freshly-baked, sliced and wrapped, or frozen bake-off products from baker to consumer safely and sustainably.
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