‘Sustainably fresh’ transport startup touts up to 50% margin gains

February 20, 2013, 1:26 pm

The founder of Global Fresh Foods is back with a new venture which he is billing as the future of the transport and inventory of “sustainably fresh” fish.

Larry Bell, who founded chilled packaging technology startup Global Fresh Foods (GFF) in 2006, is calling on suppliers to become its first partners for his new venture, ChillFresh Technologies.

Bell is pitching ChillFresh’s refrigerated controlled atmosphere (CA) systems for the transport and inventory of fresh fish, which he claims can give users an increase in gross margin of as much as 50%.

His target partners are large retail and foodservice distributors in Japan, Europe and the US.

ChillFresh will provide “door-to-door ocean freight logistics with its 40 foot CA containers”, Bell (pictured) told Undercurrent News.

“Partners will enjoy compelling direct economic benefits, such as up to 50% increases in gross margins,” he said.

“ChillFresh partners and their retail and foodservice customers will enjoy superior freshness, extended shelf life, reduced spoilage losses, enhanced sustainability and supply chain visibility.”

“We are going to construct exclusive partnerships in all major markets.”

Larry Bell

Bell, who left GFF in 2012 to start this venture, is currently in talks with several companies on partnership deals but is continuing to call for more options.

To start, he is targeting Chilean salmon distributors in Japan and tilapia and pangasius distributors in the United States and Europe. The best candidates will deliver to all the major retailers and foodservice operators in their market, be it the US east or west coast, Japan or Europe.

This is an opportunity to enhance the profitability and sustainability of global fresh seafood value chains and to give more value-added fresh offerings to customers, Bell said.

ChillFresh is offering not only the service of shipping but also access to its patented refrigerated CA ocean container technology, which cuts shipping costs in half and reduces the carbon footprint, hence the “sustainably fresh” tag, Bell said.

The technology allows fillets to be packed into recyclable cardboard cartons, loaded directly onto pallets and into the refrigerated ChillFresh CA containers. In a nutshell, fuel cells decrease the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere inside the containers while increasing the amount of carbon dioxide, which stops the growth of what Bell calls “spoilage bacteria” and protects the fish’s delicate fats and fresh colors from oxidation.

“The industry has tried for many many years using conventional modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) technologies to accomplish what we’ve accomplished,” Bell said.

Consider the impact it could have on Chilean salmon importers, Bell said.

Chilean salmon is typically shipped fresh, via air freight, from Chile. It comes in Styrofoam containers, which biodegrade poorly and pollute the environment with non-edible substances that fish and animals often mistake for food, said Bell.

Then according to Bell there is the freshness factor. Japanese sashimi experts have tested fish shipped from Chile using the preservative-free, freshness extending environment that the ChillFresh Technologies produces in its refrigerated ocean containers. Even though the at-sea shipment took 40 days — versus two or three days for air-freighted Norwegian salmon fillets – they found it to be just as fresh.

“To me, that was the ultimate freshness test,” Bell said.

From GFF to ChillFresh

Global Fresh Foods, the venture Bell founded in 2006 and left in 2012, was the first company to deliver fresh sashimi grade Chilean salmon fillets to Tokyo by ocean freight.

Once GFF was fully commercialized, Bell moved on in search of other models and ways to utilize the technology.

Bell is still a big shareholder in GFF, but left the company when it was time for other management to grow the business.

He came to look at the CA packaging operating model, which requires a costly cold storage facility and staff to execute the packaging processes necessary to establish and maintain the CA environment.  The packaging model also requires the processor to use 18 CA Packaging compatible pallets per container load.

“The industry has tried for many many years using conventional MAP technologies to accomplish what we’ve accomplished”

At scale, physically managing thousands of CA packages upon arrival and in multiple receiving facilities, where refrigeration and handling are not under the direct control of the CA provider, is a “daunting challenge”, said Bell.

Given major improvements since 2006 in refrigerated ocean container manufacturing, real-time monitoring, automation and related hardware and software, Bell decided to focus on mechanically refrigerated systems for delivering the technology more cost effectively.

The ChillFresh refrigeration-integrated CA system employs automation and real-time monitoring and communications technology in new refrigerated ocean containers and other mechanically refrigerated systems.

Bell has also come up with systems that semi-automate the creation of the CA environment, eliminating the need for a separate, specially equipped and staffed cold storage service facility.

Using a ChillFresh system, the processor loads 18 (metric ton) pallets of chilled fillets directly into the refrigerated ChillFresh CA container, which goes directly to the port. Since maintenance of the CA environment is dependent on the fuel-cell-integrated refrigerated system, no additional cold chain management or supervision is necessary upon arrival at receiving facilities, he said.

Once the container is opened, the CA environment is released and the “just filleted” fresh fish can be distributed the same way as airfreighted fish.

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