September is traditionally Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ Foodservice Distributor of the Year issue, but like everything else in 2020, tradition goes out the window in a pandemic. You only need to look at the quarterly reports for some of the top distributors to realize there’s little to celebrate given the devastation caused by coronavirus shutdowns and subsequent partial re-openings of volume foodservice venues like restaurants, hotels, caterers, stadiums, and more.

That doesn’t mean distributors are passively waiting for the pandemic to end. It can be argued that no other segment along the cold chain has had to pivot—I mean really pivot—as much as foodservice distribution to stay alive. The two biggest companies, Sysco and US Foods, have diversified their core models to become multi-layered service providers and trusted resources for their customers. Turn to P. 18 to find out how they continue to battle for business.

One area of the cold chain that’s thriving amid COVID-19 (boosted by unprecedented demand for cold foods) is cold storage construction. The pipeline was already robust at the beginning of 2020, coming off a stellar 2019, but since March, a construction boom has been underway in new-builds, renovations and expansions in core and submarkets around the country. It’s not business as usual for the actual work though; multiple pandemic precautions are being taken by firms at worksites, and also built into their projects. We talked to several top design-build and construction companies to find out how COVID-19 has altered cold storage construction in 2020 and beyond, starting on P. 6.

With record amounts of cold foods purchased by consumers this year, we wondered how that might affect the ongoing food waste crisis, and what role frozen foods can play in mitigating the problem. Turn to P. 28 for observations from Alison Bodor at the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) about how frozen foods are well-positioned to make an impact.

From frozen to refrigerated, this month’s 30-Year Anniversary feature highlights SugarCreek, which was our Refrigerated Foods Processor of the Year in 2016. The family owned company’s focus on reinvesting in its plants and employees has helped the brand reinforce its place as a leader in co-packing proteins for national brands, private labels and foodservice. Catch up with SugarCreek on P. 24.

Whether 2020 has been a struggle or a success for your business likely depends on how deeply COVID-19 has impacted your customers, and their customers too. Overall though, the cold chain has rarely been stronger than today, and all the efforts to improve production, inventory, capacity and logistics will pay off for the industry long after the pandemic ends.