As the cold chain industry experiences innovation and growth, third-party logistics providers are becoming more responsive, agile and customer-centric, according to the Cold Chain Customer Research Report, released by the Global Cold Chain Alliance (GCCA), Arlington, Va.

The report is the culmination of an 18-month-long research initiative that included focus groups and a comprehensive survey of over 270 food processors, distributors and retailers in 14 countries.

“Cold chain providers act as an extension of the food companies they serve by protecting their brands and keeping food safe. Promoting that critical mission is a strategic initiative of the industry,” says Corey Rosenbusch, president and CEO. “It’s important to communicate the differentiated value GCCA members offer their customers based on data and a firm understanding of customer perceptions of the industry.”

Over 70% of customers responded that they were satisfied with their primary cold chain provider. They also reported that they wanted cold chain providers to see themselves as extensions of their brands, as opposed to just service providers. Protecting their brand and ensuring food safety were the highest priorities of the food companies.

The findings also revealed that customer service is a key driver of customer retention and attrition. Respondents confirmed that it was in the top criteria for selecting a provider and the primary reason for changing providers. While over 80% of customers reported an increase in cold chain logistics costs over the past year, cost transparency and service quality were identified as more important priorities.