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More than just a cold storage provider

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By Lizelle van der Berg, Director – GCCA South Africa

We have heard from GCCA members in South Africa about the work they do to maintain a strong cold chain. They go through tremendous hard work to ensure the food that enters the market is safe to eat. We have also heard how the cold storage industry is committed to environmental sustainability, by initiating projects and activities to reduce their impact on the environment.

Food for All Africa has ambitious targets for 2021 and aims to service 350 000 people in Ghana. Photo by Food for All Africa
Food for All Africa has ambitious targets for 2021 and aims to service 350 000 people in Ghana. Photo by Food for All Africa

Thanks to all the manufacturers, importers, exporters and retailers supporting the industry, they are not only able to keep providing employment, but also do so much more. I have reached out to some of the Food Banks in Africa to find out what our cold storage and distribution industry has been up to over the past few months to partner with their noble cause of feeding our communities and combating hunger here in Africa.

Kenya, East Africa

John Gathungu is the executive director and co-founder of Food Banking Kenya (FBK). He has steered the organisation from formation to a reputable organisation impacting the livelihoods in the fight against hunger. FBK operates a warehouse facility to store donated or rescued food for distribution. The programme actively solicits food and other crucial resources from local food growers, retailers, wholesalers, and processors. In addition, FBK collects food donations from restaurants for immediate distribution to highly exposed groups.

GCCA member, BigCold, operates the only third-party cold chain facility in East Africa that is certified to FSSC 22000 Food Safety Management System and YUM approved. BigCold adheres to global standards for food safety including the management of services, materials/stock, assurance of food defence, allergens, food fraud prevention and environmental monitoring.

Newton Matope, president of BigCold in Kenya is a veteran in supply chain management with more than 30 years’ experience in the cold chain, food services, life support services, and fast-moving consumer goods. He has a successful track record of managing procurement, storage, and delivery of perishable products in some of the world’s most challenging environments.

Gathungu explains how Matope has supported FBK during the initial stages when sourcing for a warehouse and assisted with technical support. Matope also introduced FBK to suppliers of different warehouse equipment and to potential partners. “Newton at BigCold has saved us from the high cost of acquisition of equipment, and increased the number of our potential partners, which has ultimately enhanced our efficiency,” says Gathungu.

Big Cold has assisted FBK with temporary temperature-controlled storage, free consultancy on warehousing specifications, assisted with the negotiations on pricing with suppliers of equipment as well as training of staff on warehousing and stock control. “This is a noble cause and when it is possible BigCold will assist wherever we can,” says Matope.

oodForward SA is the largest food distribution non-profit organisation in South Africa. Photo by FoodForward SA
FoodForward SA is the largest food distribution non-profit organisation in South Africa. Photo by FoodForward SA

Ghana, West Africa

Elijah Amoo Addo is the founder and executive director of Food for All Africa in Ghana. Addo is a Ghanaian chef and food stylist who has become a social entrepreneur through his creation of Food for All Africa.
In 2017, Chef Addo was awarded a Queen’s Young Leaders Award by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace for his contribution towards reforming Ghana’s food distribution system by reducing waste, overcoming hunger, and alleviating poverty and malnutrition.

Through innovative programmes and partnerships Food for All Africa has shown impressive growth since their formation, distributing 112 000Kg of food to over 260 000 vulnerable people in 2020. The organisation has set an ambitious target to recover 300 000Kg of food in 2021 which will enable them to service 350 000 people.

GCCA member, FreezeLink, is West Africa’s leading cold chain logistics company. Companies operating in Ghana have long struggled with the absence of dependable, third-party, temperature-controlled transport and warehousing services. This challenge and the opportunity to stimulate sectors of the economy, in agricultural, consumer goods and pharmaceuticals, inspired the birth of FreezeLink.

Their experience in the supply chain, cost control, and engineering addresses this problem for many businesses that deliver food, drink, and medicine daily. Owusu Akoto, CEO of FreezeLink, has extensive experience working on a wide variety of strategy and supply chain projects in Ghana and overseas. Akota has worked for private companies and the UK Ministry of Justice before becoming CEO at FreezeLink in 2015.

Addo explains that Covid-19 presented Food for All Africa with a challenge of scaling up during a pandemic to meet the rising demand for food and basic support. This meant that they needed the consultation of an experienced professional in the warehousing and logistics industry, and that was when they got in touch with Mr. Akota of FreezeLink. “His advice and technical know-how was very supportive in enabling us to use the limited resources we had in putting in place the right measures to meet our scale up plans,” says Addo.

FreezeLink connected them to the right resources for the supply of refrigeration and storage containers for their warehousing model. This ensured the most cost efficient and effective sourcing of warehousing items. “For us at Food for All Africa, the opportunity of being mentored by a professional team at FreezeLink, helps us in furthering our mission of creating efficient and sustainable means of nutrition for needy Ghanaians through food banking and it is this kind of partnership that we are most grateful to foster,” says Addo.

FoodForward SA is the largest food distribution non-profit organisation in South Africa. Photo by FoodForward SA
FoodForward SA is the largest food distribution non-profit organisation in South Africa. Photo by FoodForward SA

South Africa

Andy du Plessis joined FoodForward SA in 2013 as the managing director. He has spearheaded significant innovative change in FoodForward SA since his arrival, by introducing digital technology to connect beneficiary organisations to retail stores and food outlets, for the regular collection of surplus food as well as the Second Harvest initiative, a specific outreach programme to commercial farmers and growers across South Africa, for the recovery of surplus fruit and vegetables.

FoodForward SA is the largest food distribution non-profit organisation in South Africa. They connect a world of excess to a world of need by recovering quality surplus food from retailers, manufacturers, and farmers and re-distributing this food to over 1 000 registered and beneficiary organisations, reaching over half a million vulnerable people across all nine provinces of South Africa every day.

Their extensive infrastructure capacity enables them to recover massive amounts of surplus food from their supply chain partners. In fiscal year 2020 they distributed 7 215 tons of food, equating to 29 million meals. FoodForward SA has a fleet of refrigerated trucks and cold storage facilities (cold rooms and freezers) at all five warehouses, which allows them to maintain the cold chain during the recovery, storage, and distribution of perishable surplus food.

GCCA members and/or their parent companies are helping in South Africa. In the fiscal year 2020, FoodForward SA’s supply chain partner, RCL Foods, donated over 200 tons of fresh and frozen food products. Etlin International donated more than 11 tons of frozen products and in the current financial year they have received a donation of 2.4 tons from the Oceana Group.
FoodForward SA helps companies to reduce food waste (and the cost of having to dump or incinerate stock) and save the environment. Furthermore, all their supply chain partners receive Section 18a tax certificates for their donations, thereby improving their bottom line.

Across Africa GCCA’s member companies are working with food banks in partnership to feed their communities. These success stories, as well as the countless others, prove that when our cold storage companies work with the local food banks to feed their communities, together we can feed more than we can working apart.

The Global Cold Chain Alliance (GCCA) is a trade association representing the temperature-controlled supply chain, including cold storage, transportation, construction, equipment suppliers, and service providers.