Fruit Logistica – Part 2: Fresh products must be fresh, says Kuehne + Nagel

Or else they taste like soup without salt. The Switzerland-headquartered logistics giant claims to be the global market leader in perishable transports, in both air and ocean. The product range comprises of fruit, vegetables, flowers, seafood, dairy, and meet. Of its 80,000 employees, based at almost 1,300 sites in close to 100 countries around 1,400 are dedicated fresh produce experts. And this network of stations and headcount, managing the supplies from beginning to end, is constantly growing through both organic and M+A activities.  

K+N’s end-to-end controlled network sets the agent apart from its competitors, claims Quint Wilken

Impressive figures, indeed. They are rounded off by 33 Fresh Chain attested stations K+N runs all over the globe, covering about 85% of the company’s perishable volumes, states Joacim Zetterdahl, Global Air Logistics Communications Manager.

One of the company’s leading representatives for the global perishables biz – even if he would probably reject this rating – is Quint Wilken. Unlike his Swedish colleague Zetterdahl, the Global Perishables Development Director Air Logistics is not based at the K+N headquarters in Schindellegi, Switzerland, but in Amsterdam, a center for fresh produce. This is where all the threats of the company’s perishables division come together.

“Densely knit network is our USP”
When asked, what sets K+N apart from its competitors when it comes to fresh produce, Wilken’s states: “Our end-to-end controlled network, enabled and supported by a large number of warehouses and handling facilities operating at a multitude of airports, which ensure timely flows and minimize cool chain interruptions.” He also sees the preferred carrier concept as a logistics advantage, allowing for long-term capacity agreements and continued air transportation reliability. The perishables package is rounded off by key sub-hubs, which K+N runs in London Heathrow and Amsterdam as well as in Kenya (Nairobi) and Colombia (Bogota), two important countries of origin.

Belly beats main deck
The acquisition of Morgan Cargo, founded in Johannesburg in 1993 and based at OR Tambo Airport, has recently added offices in Kenya, the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK to the global K+N network, in addition to existing stations within South Africa.

Most of K+N’s fresh produce is transported in the lower deck compartments of passenger jetliners. They serve significantly more routes than cargo aircraft and their flight schedules are denser in comparison. Both aspects are of paramount importance for the fast delivery of fresh produce to market.

Team Senegal informed visitors to their stand about the wide variety of products typical of their country.

Touching supply chain issues and current distortions, the manager points to the shelling of merchant ships in the Red Sea by the Yemeni Houthi regime. This has caused a palpable shift from ocean to air, he observed. To minimize risks, many box carriers avoid crossing the Suez Canal but circumvent Africa instead on their way from India or Vietnam to Europe or back. The route via Cape Town delays maritime transports by between one week and around 10 days, causes more CO2 emissions and ups the rates charged. But it’s a safe alternative to avoid being hit by grenades and risking the life of seafarers. Although the refrigerated products are stowed in reefers during their maritime journey to ensure constant temperatures, the ‘time to market’ aspect plays a major role, indicates manager Wilken.

Air beats sea
This was confirmed by various experts at the Fruit Logistica trade fair who indicated some quality differences of products transported by vessels or aircraft. They spoke of “slight taste differences” because shipments traveling by sea tend to ripen during transportation, even if stowed in reefers at low temperatures. Consequently, they risk losing some of their freshness and natural succulence.

Supposedly, most of the tomatoes, apples, bananas, cabbages, avocados and alike natural foodstuff presented by exhibitors at the Fruit Logistica trade fare were flown to Berlin in the holds of passenger aircraft. Because not only did they look fresh and juicy, but they also tasted great. A fact the author was able to test personally.  

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