Keeping Cool with the Cold Chain

THERMOMETERIn 1971, 1.3 billion flowers were sold in the US annually. Of those, 1.2 billion were homegrown. Today, sales are 2.1 billion, with 2 billion of those coming from suppliers such as Colombia and Ecuador. Labor costs and globalization played a part, certainly, but another major development contributed to this shift: the Cold Chain.

So, what is the cold chain?

The cold chain involves the transportation of temperature sensitive products along a supply chain through thermal and refrigerated packaging methods and the logistical planning to protect the integrity of these shipments. There are several means in which cold chain products can be transported, including refrigerated trucks and railcars, refrigerated cargo ships as well as by air cargo. Hofstra University

Keeping the flowers consistently refrigerated from farm to retail – it seems like a no-brainer. What’s the science behind the cold chain, though? Why is “cold” the magic ingredient in flower preservation? According to the Floralife research department, it’s all about the carbs and sugars that provide for cell function and expansion in the flower. Flowers store them during growth. After harvest, and during shipping, they consume these stored nutrients…but the supply is limited. Lowering temperature reduces this rate of consumption. Then, when they reach their destination, it’s flower food – pronto!

It’s a matter of keeping consistent cool temperatures throughout the postharvest chain. And what’s that chain look like? Let’s “follow the flowers” from Ecuador to the US, including harvest, storage on the farm, transportation to a cargo agency, storage at the cargo agency, palletizing, customs clearance in Quito, loading to the plane, flight to Miami, customs clearance in Miami, de-palletizing, storage at a cargo agency in Miami, and then shipping to a US retailer.

…all while keeping a consistent temperature of 34 to 38 F (1 to 3C)! And how do you help ensure that consistency? Include a temperature recorder to help identify, monitor and track temperature-sensitive products such as fresh cut flowers. Just insert the temperature recorder in one of your boxes, and follow the flowers’ progress on your smart phone! There are many products to choose from out there.

The cold chain – it’s the reason that those 7 to 10-day-old flowers at your retailer last another solid week in the vase at home (that, and Floralife Flower Food!) Now you know!