As I was looking through our 2019 State of the Industry issue to see what trends and initiatives were impacting the cold chain at this time last year, I realized how quaint the cover headline was from a July 2020 point of view: Disruption in the Marketplace. 

Simply put, the COVID-19 pandemic has redefined what disruption means in our industry. Last year’s concerns about everything from supply chain management to sustainable sourcing and processing haven’t disappeared—they’ve just been amplified and twisted into new forms by coronavirus. Not all of it has been negative. Retail sales for refrigerated and frozen foods hit record highs in March and April and will likely boost the bottom line for cold foods processors and their supplier partners through the end of the year and into 2021.

The downside has been the ebb and flow of empty store shelves due to consumer stockpiling, the restaurant industry’s devastating shutdown and its impact on foodservice distributors, and ongoing frontline worker safety concerns. However, the cold chain has proved its resiliency by improvising emergency solutions in real time, and that has helped the initial chaos to stabilize.

We reached out to many of those along the cold chain for a snapshot of where the industry is today in several crucial areas. Turn to P. 32 to see their observations.

On a less chaotic note, our eighth annual, 2020 Best New Retail Products Contest drew a near-record number of votes throughout March. We go one-on-one with the top five winners for a closer look at their popular products, and how they’re addressing consumer trends, starting on P. 26.

Women have been making a significant impact on the cold chain for decades, but frankly, in a male-dominated field, women haven’t always received the credit they deserve for moving the profession forward. On P. 32 you’ll hear from one of those women—Karen Reece of Eskimo Cold Storage—about her 40-year journey in cold chain logistics, and her inspiring, lifelong passion for the industry.

Also included in this issue is the 2020 North American Refrigerated & Frozen Foods Warehouse Guide, where you’ll find detailed listings and contact information for hundreds of cold storage facilities via the Global Cold Chain Alliance (GCCA) and its members. Cold foods storage facilities are busier than ever due to unprecedented demand for products, so this guide is a valuable resource if you’re looking for a place to house and expedite inventory, or just to assess what opportunities are available for your company. In a time of historic disruption, it’s good to know there’s a reliable, consistent source of information to help you navigate 2020’s unpredictable seas.