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Cold Chain

The term cold chain refers to the transportation of temperature sensitive products, such as flowers, along a supply chain through thermal and refrigerated packing methods. The key to the success of the cold chain is logistical planning to protect the integrity of these shipments.

For cut flowers of all varieties to survive and arrive looking their very best, they should be cooled rapidly to proper temperatures (normally 33-35F) and maintained at appropriate temperatures (no higher than 41F) throughout the cold chain. The cold chain is represented by multiple steps in the transportation of fresh cut flowers, and involves pre-cooling at the farm level, refrigerated shipping from the farm and pre-cooling at the departing South American airport facility, pre-cooling upon arrival in Miami, load out onto refrigerated trucks that maintain the desired temperature until they arrive to the regional wholesalers coolers at the desired 33-35 degrees, and remain at that temperature until shipping out and arriving at the retail customer with the cold chain respected and maintained.

When flowers are flown to regional airports from Miami the breakdown in the cold chain begins, and the assault on the flower’s vase life for the end consumer has begun. Arriving at local airline cargo facilities with no coolers is just one part of the break down in the cold chain. Long delays on hot airport tarmacs, or non air conditioned cargo holding areas for hours on end, starts a downward spiral on vase life that can’t be recaptured. Once the cold chain is interrupted, or compromised, the product can lose 30-40% of its vase life. Any product that has been shipped or stored in a non-refrigerated environment for an extended period of time, and yes that means Fed-Ex and UPS, results with you ending up with a greatly inferior product. This is why the cold chain is best maintained by the regional wholesaler who has the most control over the conditions the flowers are exposed to from the farm to the retailer’s cooler.

In the world of post-harvest care and handling, temperature can be a matter of life and death for fresh cut flowers. Flowers respire faster at higher temperatures, and water loss is increased. In fact, overall vase life can be shortened by any break in the cold chain during transit or storage. There has been much research and discussion regarding the one variable that is recognized as the most important environmental factor in care and handling of cut flowers: temperature.

What is the relationship between respiration and temperature?

There is no denying the relationship between respiration and temperature. Respiration is the utilization of food within a plant. As temperature increases, respiration also increases, which in turn generates heat. In fact, if the cold chain is broken long enough to warm the flower to room temperature or above, the plant may continue to create heat through respiration even after it has been moved into the cooler. What this means is that even when a mistake is made, and the cold chain is broken, fixing that mistake by cooling the flower shipment may not stop that particular shipment from experiencing a continued elevation in temperature and reduction in vase life. The bottom line? The more people that handle your product without having proper knowledge, or facilities, to control the temperature of your flower shipment the more likely you are to have an inferior product in your cooler. Thank your lucky stars you’ve got Hartford Florist Supply, Inc. looking out for your best interests.

How does temperature affect vase life?

Multiple studies have been done to determine the effects of cold chain breaks on
vase life of various crops over the years. They discovered that by subjecting asters, baby’s breath, carnations, and chrysanthemums to high temperatures (68 F) for only 8 hours, vase life was significantly decreased. Flowers exposed to 68 F for 8 to 40 hours showed a 30 - 40% decrease in vase life when compared to flowers held at a constant temperature of 46 F.

How much fluctuation is too much?

Much of the research available also indicated that damage caused by cold chain breaks was most severe when it occurred late in the supply chain. So even if the cold chain stays unbroken until arrival to your local airport, or non-refrigerated storage area (see UPS / Fed-Ex), damage can still occur that greatly impacts the quality and consumer value of your flower shipment. How can you fix this? Don’t use logistics providers that don’t use or offer constant and monitored refrigeration to keep the cold chain intact. Not doing so guarantees you are sending out an inferior product to one that was shipped with the cold chain respected.

How to avoid cold chain breaks?

Minimizing processing delays is always a key in avoiding temperature problems. Process flowers immediately upon arrival. Even more important than proper processing on the retail level is making sure that you used a source that made sure your product was properly handled from farm to your cooler door. We at Hartford Florist Supply, Inc. are dedicated to using partners, sourcing solutions, and logistic providers that respect the cold chain as much as we do. We want to deliver the freshest product to our customers, and we make sure that they aren’t transported or stored at anything less than optimal conditions. Using any source that doesn’t utilize cold chain management from harvest to delivery to your door jeopardizes all the hard work you put into your business. Trust us to let you design with properly handled product. Every time.

How does this affect the retail florist and their customers?

Maintaining the cold chain will ensure our customers, and their end consumers, have the freshest, highest quality flowers available. Having the best farms with the best varieties and colors available means little if they don’t arrive in the best possible condition. Using anything less than proper cold chain management is unacceptable to all of us here at Hartford Florist Supply, Inc., and should be to you too.

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Hartford Florist Supply, Inc.
60 Douglas Street
Bloomfield, CT 06002 

800-706-9437 : Toll Free
860-769-7970 : CT Local
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