Stocking up – helping food importers cope with surging demand

30 March 2020

Unprecedented changes in consumer demand have placed yet more pressure on food supply chains. Our Head of Commercial, Zara Giles, looks at how smart warehousing can help manage the problem and ensure shelves remain stocked.

The logistics of groceries and other household essentials are very finely tuned. Consumers want the right produce at the right time regardless of the season. Meeting their expectations is an enormous daily challenge, with expected peaks being planned for many months in advance.

You can imagine then how much Covid-19 has dramatically altered demand trends, with consumers stocking up on non-perishable items such as pasta, canned goods and toilet paper, and all without any real notice. It’s as if Christmas had been announced in November! In response, supermarkets have  been hunting for additional warehouse capacity to allow them to meet customer needs, but it can be hard to secure enough space at such short notice.

One alternative that can help under-pressure retailers is by converting port warehouses into pop-up distribution centres. Deploying these at ports means that, rather than just storing goods at the port, importers can have cargo unpacked from containers, sorted for onward distribution, then loaded onto lorries for distribution. This removes the need for multi-stage journeys, where goods go from port to warehouse to distribution centre to shop, each one of which adds time and increases the risk of delays.

Collating goods at ports also makes it easier to pick and pack the most urgent or essential supplies, such as dried pasta or tinned vegetables, which are currently in huge demand. Additionally, the pop-up model means containers spend less time travelling empty, when they are really required elsewhere to be loaded up.

These are unprecedented times and, as part of our national response, we need to think of new ways to manage essential supply chains. By repurposing port facilities into distribution hubs, food importers can get supplies from ship-to-shelf faster than ever while simultaneously minimising costs, reducing journey time and carbon congestion, and improving the efficiency of the supply chain.

The port of Liverpool is ideally located to operate as a pop-up hub as it has a concentration of distribution centres to the north and up to 750,000 sq. ft of available capacity that can be used to house, sort, and load vital products.  

Speak to us to learn more about how the pop-up distribution model works and how it could help you to meet consumer demand during these exceptional times.