Supply chain logistics for chocolate

Ian Shuttlewood
11 March, 24

Regardless of the global interest in healthy eating, the appetite for fine chocolate is still very much alive and kicking. The size of the overall chocolate market was valued at USD 115.92 billion in 2024 and is estimated to expand at 3.53% CAGR to reach USD 137.88 billion by 2029 (source: Mordor Intelligence) and in the UK chocolate sales reached £3.9bn in 2023 (source: IBIS World). Premium luxury brands are predicted to grow at an increased rate of 8.83% CAGR during 2024-29  (source Mordor Intelligence) and it is this sector of the market that is a particularly appealing proposition for export.

There is an established appetite for Britain’s home-produced artisan chocolate globally, with the US and EMEA showing especial great interest in the UK offering. So, with the annual chocolate-fest that is Easter looming, what factors do chocolate producers need to consider when looking at the efficient transfer of these temperature-sensitive goods across the globe? 

Here are some top tips from specialists in the movement of perishable goods and world-class logistics and supply chain solution provider, PML Seafrigo. Ian Shuttlewood, Director of Ocean & Road, offers these guidelines:

Seamless supply chain

Before you hand over your precious chocolate consignment for transfer, be sure to check out the integrity of the supply chain. Is there just one company controlling the end-to-end journey from producer to retailer / distributor? Does that company own each leg of the journey or is it reliant on third parties? Is there a single point of contact that you can liaise with to provide updates on the transfer of goods? The more ‘links’ in the supply chain, the greater the risk of a problem occurring and the less control there is during the movement of products from source to the final end destination.

Search for proven expertise

When it comes to temperature-sensitive foods, it is imperative that you seek out an expert in the field. And if you are looking at exporting to a number of different continents, it makes sense to work with an experienced company who can help you navigate the globe.

Chocolate requires specific handling criteria to maintain product integrity / aesthetic appeal. Too high a temperature and the chocolate is prone to blooming and softening, if sufficiently high, even melting. Too low a temperature and the product can crystallise. Ideally chocolate should be transported at temperatures between 13oC and 15oC. If the chocolate is to be transported with other goods – for example cheese – the pallet should be shrouded to avoid any flavour transfer and to keep it at the required slightly warmer temperature than cheese.

Thermal blankets are generally used to provide reassurance that in the unlikely event of a power outage, the chocolate will remain at the correct temperature for longer. Most logistics firms will ensure there is a temperature monitor in each container, which can be checked to see if there has been any notable change in heat conditions during transit. Some shipping lines will even offer ongoing monitoring of the cargo via satellite towers on the ship but there is a significant cost associated with this and in general, this extra vigilant monitoring is only used by pharmaceutical companies and the military. Most premium carriers will carry out regular checks on the ship and there is an engineer on board in the case of any problems.

As part of your due diligence in searching for the right supply chain solutions provider make sure that you only use trusted partners with a robust build and replacement policy so you have peace of mind that the containers used are not old and are fit for purpose.

Time is precious

Every day that your products are in transit, represents a day that they are not available for sale, so speed and efficiency really are vital. In basic terms, the shorter the journey, the longer the shelf life – and the shorter the timeframe in which the client requests more stock. PML Seafrigo’s new scheduled chilled LCL service to the US, enables the successful transfer of the best of British artisan foods to the States in just 11 days.

The newly launched London to New York line is ideal for fine chocolate producers, looking to exploit the US’s ongoing love of fine foods from the UK. As an LCL service (Less than Container Load) customers only pay for the space they use in the container, with the goods of several clients placed in one container resulting in a highly cost-effective freight solution.

With the current issues surrounding the chaos associated with border control checks, it also makes sense to opt for a supply chain solution provider who has the proven experience to deal with the myriad customs documents – and if you are importing any goods from the EU as part of your manufacturing / production process, one that operates its own border control post to avoid the excessive delays at the port / airport.

Ensure you insure

Insurance should never be a maybe, but rather always make it a priority. Cargo insurance costs will vary enormously, and it pays to find a logistics firm who will handle this for you as part of the seamless end-to-end offering.  PML Seafrigo offers it customers insurance per trip / per shipment, from the pick-up point by road to its final destination (as long as all elements of the journey are covered by PML Seafrigo), this is a vastly more cost-effective option that the annual policies which are offered by some of the shipping lines and ideally suited to artisan producers of fine chocolate.

A final word of advice. All too often businesses fixate on the production of their goods to deliver a premium product that meets all the requisite flavour and taste experience criteria. But then fail to invest time in researching the right partner to ensure the safe and on schedule arrival of these items to the retailer.

Don’t let all your hard work go to waste and risk a whole consignment arriving late or worse still, being rejected on the grounds of failure to meet the required quality control checks due to weak links in the supply chain.

Do your research and build a good working relationship with your logistics provider – after all, without this important resource in place, your business will never reach its full potential.

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