A contemporary large cold chain distribution center is usually set as a crossdocking facility where inbound loads are serviced on one side and outbound loads on the other. Inbound loads originate from a wide variety of local, national, and international suppliers, reflecting the whole range of food products available in a large grocery store. Third-party logistics providers usually provide these deliveries that service directly from food-producing facilities, and that may consolidate loads in their own refrigerated warehouses. Outbound loads are customized shipments bound to specific grocery stores, with transportation often provided by a fleet of reefer vehicles owned by the retailer or performed on its account. These deliveries are usually regional in scope, which corresponds to the market area of the distribution center. Not surprisingly, power consumption is the most important operating cost for a refrigerated warehouse, with labor coming as the second. Locations that are able to offer lower-cost energy are thus at an advantage in cold chain logistics.
Within the warehouse are several compartments of different temperatures to support specific cold chain requirements. Ambient (20 degrees Celsius), which commonly accounts for a large share of the square footage, is used for standard non-perishable grocery products (e.g. canned goods, pasta, bread, or at least goods that do not require cold chain transportation and storage). ‘Banana’ (10 degrees Celsius) applies to a whole range of products such as bananas (obviously), citrus, fruits, potatoes, and onions. Chilled (2 degrees Celsius) is commonly used for dairy products and meat. In comparison, freeze (-10 degrees Celsius) relates to frozen goods such as ice cream, pre-prepared meals (e.g. pizza), frozen vegetables, meat, and seafood.