Cold chain logistics is vital in ensuring your medicines, dairy products and other temperature-sensitive goods arrive on shelves fresh and safe to consume. So how does the cold chain work? Get the complete lowdown in this blog, plus learn how to get quality reefers at the best price on Container xChange. 

Thanks to the cold chain, it’s possible for economies around the world to take part in the global perishable goods market. As income levels increase and the demand for fresh produce continues to grow, it’s important that goods are able to travel longer distances and reach more remote locations fresh and intact. 

Players in the shipping industry will know that reefer containers are a crucial element in the cold chain process, keeping your goods at a constant temperature along their journey. And this is the exact reason why sourcing in-demand reefers at a good price can be an issue. If finding reefers at the best prices, from reliable sellers, along the routes you need is causing you headaches, Container xChange is your solution.

We’re an online marketplace for trading and leasing shipping containers. We’ve got over 50,000 containers available in 2,500+ locations around the globe. What’s more, all prices are stated upfront, and are completely negotiable.

Why not check out the equipment we’ve got available in your area right now? Simply select your location and choose reefers in the size you’re after, then press ‘search’ to find them at the best price. 

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What is cold chain logistics?

The cold chain is a supply chain that involves the transportation of temperature-sensitive and perishable goods (also known as ‘cool cargo’) through thermal and refrigerated packaging. Cool cargo includes:

  • Dairy
  • Meat
  • Seafood
  • Chemicals
  • Pharmaceuticals & vaccines
  • Flowers
  • Wine

For most cool cargo, you need to maintain a specific temperature throughout the shipping process. Certain cargo needs to be refrigerated, other cargo frozen, while especially sensitive goods require extremely cold conditions known as ‘ultra-low’ or ‘deep freeze’. 

There are four main temperature standards in the cold chain process: ‘banana’, ‘chill’, ‘frozen’, and ‘deep frozen’. Check them out below:

Temperature standard Temperature range
Banana (Bananas, pineapples) 12° to 14°C (53° to 57°F)
Chill (Vegetables, fruits, meat and dairy) 2° to 4°C (35° to 39°F)
Frozen (Meat, bread, cakes) -10° and -20°C (14° to -4°F)
Deep frozen (Seafood, ice-cream) -25° to -30°C (-13° to -22°F)

So why is the cold chain so vital in the overall retail process? You’ll get the answers you’re looking for in the next section.

Why are cold chain logistic services important?

If the ‘chain’ is broken at any point, meaning that climate-sensitive cargo is exposed to a temperature above its required range, spoilage is likely to occur. 

This in turn leads to massive amounts of wastage, not to mention huge financial losses. Spoilt medications and foods also pose serious health risks to consumers. 

While a consumer may not be able to tell that the salmon they bought at a local store spent some time in a truck at 4° (40°F), they could be at risk of developing a serious foodborne illness. 

It’s easy to see why it’s so critical for the cold chain to remain unbroken from start to finish. Even exposure to higher temperatures for short periods of time can have a dramatic effect on cool cargo’s longevity. 


There are over 80 million shipments of medical products transported globally every year, each with unique temperature requirements. What’s more, some products cannot be exposed to light, moisture or high air pressure – limiting the modes of transportation that can be used.

Want to keep products fresh and the cold chain completely intact? You’ll need reefer containers for this. The reefer container is specially insulated and comes with an inbuilt cooling mechanism, which allows for both cooling and freezing. Click here to learn how reefers work. 

If you want to learn more about how to get reefers at the best price in the location you need, click below to get a free demo of our platform. One of our helpful experts will be happy to give you a sneak peak, and answer any questions you may have.

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How does cold chain logistics work?

The cold chain is made up of several processes, including packaging, storage, shipping and tracking. Every step along the way must be carefully planned and managed by experts, in order to make sure goods arrive at their final destination fresh and undamaged. Let’s dive deeper into these processes below:

Cold chain packaging

Packaging is an extremely important aspect of maintaining the cold chain during transportation and shipping. Each category of cargo requires a specific kind of packaging, which depends on factors like: 

  • Required temperature and humidity level
  • Shipment size
  • Duration of shipping
  • Outside temperature and changes that might occur 

As an example of packaging requirements, many vaccines are packed in small insulated boxes, and moved in insulated containers. They may also require cold packs and temperature tracking devices.

Cold chain storage

Cold chain storage is another important element in cold chain logistics. While goods await shipping, they need to be stored at precisely the right temperature, in special storage warehouses. Warehousing is a complicated system involving consolidation/deconsolidation, loading and unloading, and storage itself.

Many warehouses offer services such as blast freezing (using air to freeze goods fast), precooling, frozen receiving, ripening and inspection checks.

Cold chain logistics transportation and tracking

And then there’s the transportation itself. As mentioned earlier, shipping of most cool cargo requires reefer containers (and in some cases, insulated containers). Reefers have an inbuilt cooling system, which allows areas to be sectioned off for cooling and freezing. Humidity can also be controlled within the container.

Temperature tracking of cool cargo is of vital importance, especially when it comes to changing environmental conditions. It’s crucial that the temperature of cargo is consistently monitored as a shipment makes its way from one destination to another, in case adjustments need to be made within the container.

Now that we’ve covered some of the main elements, here’s a simple overview of the cold chain process:

The cold chain logistics process

Unfortunately, the cold chain system is not without its challenges. Let’s get clued up on some of the main obstacles in the next section.

Challenges with the cold chain logistics process

With such an intricate process, things are bound to go wrong. Here are some of the frustrating issues faced by players in cold chain logistics.

Damaged cooler/freezer doors

When freezer or cooler doors are damaged, goods are exposed to outside temperatures. This can have a dramatic effect on the cargo being stored. It is of vital importance that freezer doors are inspected regularly, and that seals are effective in keeping the elements out. Learn how you can avoid this with regular container surveys and inspections. 


Condensation is a common problem that occurs in facilities that work with both warm and cold processes. Goods generate excessive moisture if moved from one temperature to another too quickly. This can affect a product’s freshness. 

Limited access to reefers on demand

With the constantly increasing demand for fresh produce around the world, it can be difficult to get reefers from your sources, especially at the last minute. The longer goods have to wait to be shipped, the higher the risk of spoilage. 

Container xChange is the answer to your limited container supply woes. Click here to learn more about how we can effectively solve these struggles for you.

Excessive heat exposure

Sometimes the problem occurs even before the goods have been cooled or frozen. Cargo may be exposed to high temperatures along the way to the storage facility, adding to the risk of degradation. 

One solution for this is to implement a drive-through dock with a strong loading dock seal. This protects the product from outside heat, preventing the safety hazards associated with temperature irregularities.

Sounds like a lot of things can go wrong, right? But don’t panic, there are solutions that can make your cold chain logistics process simpler and more efficient. The most important one? Accessing quality reefers for your shipments, in high-demand locations and along popular routes. Let’s take a look at how Container xChange can help with this and other obstacles in the next section. 

Reefer containers

Cold chain logistics solutions on Container xChange

On xChange, we’ve got a variety of services to help you streamline your cold chain logistics processes. Check them out below:

Find reefers at best prices on your route & location

You know that quality reefers are vital in ensuring goods remain at the correct temperature during shipping. But where to get them at the best price, from reliable sellers? 

On our marketplace, you can buy reefers of various sizes from vetted suppliers in 2,500+ locations. Choose from 20ft, 40ft, 40ft HC and 45ft HCs in different conditions, at a price that suits you. Click here to see the reefer availability and offers in your location. 

In fact, you can even lease reefers for one-way shipments. This way you can successfully transport your goods without spending the big bucks on purchasing equipment. Click here to see reefer availability and offers for one-way leasing on your route. 

With an increase in demand for fresh produce in recent years, it can be difficult to source containers when you need them. On xChange, you have access to 50,000+ containers at any time, so you’re bound to find the equipment you need, when you need it.

Get up-to-date reefer prices with xChange Insights

Before buying reefers, it’s important to be in-the-know about the latest price trends. Luckily, we’ve got your back. Welcome to xChange Insights, where you can get up-to-date container prices and leasing rates in over 180 locations around the world. 

Get a global view of prices for reefers, as well as dry containers and high cubes. What’s more, pinpoint the cheapest and most expensive areas to purchase equipment, and analyze trends to identify the perfect time to buy and sell.

This way, you can make informed decisions, every single time. Want to check out what Insights is all about? Try it out for free today.

Track containers in near real-time

The cold chain is an intricate process, with many hurdles along the way. So why not simplify things as much as you can by keeping a constant eye on your containers? 

With xChange tracking, it’s possible to track your containers and receive regular updates from depots. You’ll also get ETAs so you can stay ahead of any delays and hold ups.

Finally, be the first to find out about any issues with your fleet, so that you can communicate to partners, save on follow-up costs, and avoid potential disruptions.

Safe payment handling

On xChange, manage all of your payments in one place. Select and pay for containers directly on the platform using the xChange wallet. What’s more, keep track of your full payment history, and receive just one monthly invoice. Simple and convenient!

Simplify your cold chain logistics with Container xChange

If you want to have access to reefers at great prices in the locations you need, as well as take advantage of our wide range of logistics solutions, it’s time to sign up as a member on xChange.

So how does xChange work? Once you’re a member, simply navigate to the trading search or leasing search to get started. Type in your requirements, and browse available reefer container deals near you. Compare prices easily, and pick the best offers for your needs. Once you’ve selected the containers you want, negotiate the terms and price directly with the seller.


Use xChange Insights to find out what you should be paying in your location, then use your knowledge to negotiate the best deal for you. You can also find the top locations to buy reefers at any particular time with this helpful tool.

Concerned about safety? All of our members go through a mandatory background check, so you can sit back and relax, because all of the vetting has been done for you.

Finally, get quality reefers for your cold chain needs, and simplify your cold chain logistics processes with tracking and safe payments. Click below to schedule your free demo with one of our helpful experts today, and find out how you can streamline your cold chain logistics once and for all.

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Cold chain logistics: Common FAQs

What is cold chain logistics?

The cold chain is a highly regulated supply chain network that deals with temperature-sensitive and perishable goods (also known as ‘cool cargo). This includes cargo like dairy, meat, medicines and fruit. The purpose of the cold chain is to maintain a specific temperature range throughout the shipping process.

What are some examples of cold chain transport?

Cold chain transport is usually done using special containers known as reefers. These containers are refrigerated. Other equipment used during the cold chain process includes cold rooms for storage, and cold boxes for products like vaccines.

Why is cold chain logistics important?

The cold chain is vital in keeping temperature sensitive goods like medications, meat and dairy fresh and safe for consumption/use.