October 11, 2019

A Greener Route to Market for Fresh Fish

The environmental footprint of transporting the food we eat is increasingly entering the public consciousness, particularly those products that require swift but ultimately costly long-haul transit. Indeed, while the so-called “flight shaming” of passenger air travel has gathered momentum, where green campaigners are casting the spotlight on excessive or unnecessary trips by plane, the likelihood is that similar, fierce criticism will be aimed at certain food supply chains.

Activists like Greta Thunberg are thrusting the spotlight on the environmental impacts of consumer behaviors across the board, from air travel to product supply chains

The Carbon Conundrum

This puts many companies in a difficult position. Because of complex global supply chains, many products travel great distances before reaching their point of purchase and consumption. And for more perishable items, such as fresh seafood, the route to market often entails air transport.

While there is a strong case for growing and eating local, the reality is that the majority of consumers will be unwilling to forego many of their favorites to curtail their carbon footprint.

Frozen Just Isn’t Fresh

Frozen food offers a more practical option. It offers convenience, year-round availability and the scope to use greener modes of transport such as ocean freight. However, there is an overwhelming perception among consumer groups that “fresh is best” in terms of product quality and value offering. 

This is certainly the mindset when it comes to fish, and so there’s an understandable reluctance for seafood supply chains to devalue their products by freezing them. 

Sustainable Freshness

But there is another solution – one that meets the consumer preference for fresh seafood. This age of disruptive innovation has brought more sophisticated processing technologies to the fore, including new chilling innovations that substantially prolong the shelf life of proteins  without freezing. 

Recognizing the potential for their application in the seafood category, Skaginn 3X developed its SUB-CHILLING™ system, which can lengthen a product’s freshness by up to seven days without freezing it.

This system works by quickly chilling whole fish down to below the freezing point of water (fish start freezing at -1 to -2°C, while ice can only cool down to 0°C). Essentially, the fish effectively become its own refrigerant, and this eliminates the need to use additional forms of cooling like gel pads or flake-fluid ice. The process also avoids the development of large ice crystals in the products’ tissue, which can lead to reduced quality.

Note the gaping in the traditionally processed fillet vs. the firm fillet after SUB-CHILLING™

Redefining Green Transport

The SUB-CHILLING™ method and its extended shelf life also ticks many green boxes. Among these, it increases the likelihood of consumption and reduces the risk of waste. It also offers greater flexibility when it comes to transportation so that many supply chains no longer require airfreight, and for those that do, it dramatically improves the cost-efficiency of that transport.

This is because as well as saving on energy, not requiring ice reduces the transport weight by around 20%. It also means that each box can transport more fish, thereby raising freight cost-efficiency even further. This offers huge potential savings. 

For example, it’s estimated that 240,000 metric tons of salmon is now transported in airplanes to Asian markets alone. To maintain freshness, these fish are accompanied by around 48,000 metric tons of ice, or the equivalent of more than 1,000 jumbo jets – literally just filled with ice! SUB-CHILLING™ eliminates those unnecessary planes and their fuel from the supply chain.

Sustainability Meets Profitability

With consumers becoming increasing savvy about the food that they eat and its impact on the environment and a growing consciousness to do right by the planet, it’s clear that there’s no room for complacency in the seafood sector. It’s important that stakeholders act now and match the demands of consumers and society. SUB-CHILLING™ offers the means to do just that.

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