CAI Transportation Blog

4 Challenges in the Food Supply Chain and How a 3PL Can Help


Managing a supply chain in any industry is a complex undertaking. With many factors to consider, parties to involve, and money tied up in logistics operations, there’s enormous pressure to get it right.

Though these considerations are constant across all sectors, the stakes in the global food supply chain are particularly high. Improper storage and transportation of food products can result in spoilage, bringing the risk of waste or illness. Disruptions in delivery schedules may cause frustration with distributors and consumers alike, damaging a brand’s reputation.

These concerns add a unique level of urgency to food and beverage logistics managers’ responsibilities. Accuracy, timeliness, and high standards are required to get products to their destination in good condition. Keeping everything moving smoothly requires agility and creative problem solving.

But even when a logistics manager in the food and beverage industry has all their ducks in a row, their operations can easily be undone by some other disruption to the supply chain. That’s why it’s so crucial to collaborate with trustworthy partners to ensure that the same standards are maintained from origin all the way to the destination.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the biggest concerns affecting global food and beverage supply chain managers, and how the right third-party logistics partners can keep things running smoothly:


Because of the sensitive nature of many food items, they generally need to be transported using special equipment. For fresh produce, this often involves refrigerated trucks, or reefers. For dry goods such as grains, shippers expect to see a clean food-grade truck, with no holes, smells, or moisture that might threaten the integrity of the shipment.

Unfortunately, many food supply chain managers know the frustration of having improper equipment arrive to pick up a shipment. When this happens, they’re put in a challenging spot: through no fault of their own, either the timeline or their standards will be compromised.

Working with a 3PL partner who has concentrated expertise in transporting food products is a great way to avoid this kind of frustration. Armed with a deep understanding of your equipment needs and timeline, a trustworthy third-party logistics expert will ensure that you’re only working with the most reliable carriers. That means you can rest easy, knowing the right containers will show up at the right time.


Recalls and other quality incidents are a painful, embarrassing, and frustrating experience for food suppliers. In light of several high-profile food contamination events in the past few years, many food growers and manufacturers feel increased pressure to maintain high standards throughout every piece of their supply chain.

For long supply chains, this is particularly challenging. The more times a shipment changes hands between the point of origin and the final destination, the greater the risk for improper handling. That’s why visibility and communication are so crucial. When goods fail to arrive in good condition, suppliers need to be able to identify the weak links in the supply chain to make corrections.

An expert third-party logistics provider can help you maintain transparency in your supply chain. With an eye on maintaining your reputation, a 3PL can draw on their network to ensure your goods are handled only by the most trustworthy carriers.


The global supply chain gets more interconnected and complicated by the day. This is exciting, but it further complicates efforts to maintain transparency. In an effort to establish common food sanitation and transportation standards, the FDA set strict regulations for carriers who haul food products. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011 includes requirements for sanitation, training, temperature controls, and other preventive measurements for most domestic and imported food shipments.

While these regulations provide more protections against foodborne illnesses, they also increase complexity in the transportation process. In addition, there’s increased competition for compliant equipment, which is already in high demand. And the FSMA isn’t the only regulation food supply chain managers have to know and follow. They’re also responsible for complying with similar laws in any country where they export food products.

Keeping track of updates to domestic and international regulations can be time-consuming and burdensome for busy supply chain managers. Third-party logistics partners can ease some of these concerns. They can ensure that any carriers responsible for hauling your goods are compliant with all relevant laws, saving you time and effort.


Supply chain managers across all industries are painfully aware of the current capacity crunch. This conundrum has increased competition and driven up transportation costs. Food suppliers feel this even more acutely. Regulatory burdens and specific equipment requirements make it even more challenging to get the appropriate freight capacity at the right time.

Shippers generally confirm seasonal bookings far in advance, which can alleviate some of this stress. But as the last few years have shown, nature has a way of changing even the best-laid plans. Even though scientific advancements have brought more predictability to agricultural food production processes, there are still variables outside of growers’ control.

When shipping needs change unexpectedly, it can be a tall order to find the right equipment in time. Any available reefer trucks get picked up quickly. Shippers may find that they’re spending considerable time with no guarantee of getting the capacity they need.

As with all the other factors we’ve addressed, this is a case for working with an agile, flexible third-party logistics partner. Their close communication with a network of trusted carriers allows them to anticipate potential open food grade or reefer capacity and act on your behalf to secure it on short notice.

Want to see what a difference a 3PL can make in your food supply chain? At CAI Logistics, we have extensive experience working with food suppliers, and a proven track record of maintaining their high standards throughout the supply chain. We’d love to help you find customized solutions to some of your most challenging logistics problems. Contact us today to learn more.