A major driver in developing countries for the growth of cold chains is a need to reduce high levels of food loss and wastage, with an estimated half of perishable food being lost before even reaching the market, largely due to the absence of proper cooling.
Globally it is estimated that 1.3 billion tonnes of food, representing a third of the total food production for human consumption, is lost or wasted every year - this while more than 800 million people globally are malnourished.
This results in combined economic losses roughly equating to US$750 billion a year, of which US$4.5 billion occurs in India annually.
The demand for food is projected to grow by 40% by 2030.
Asia and Africa together account for two thirds of global food wastage, losing the equivalent of 400 to nearly 600 calories per person per day.
In developing countries however, as much as 90% of food waste – made up for 92% by crop foods and dairy - occurs in the supply chain rather than at consumer.
Additional availability of fresh fruits and vegetables may also help decrease nutritional deficiencies, which affects 180 million children worldwide and can lower lifetime earnings by up to 22%.
Malnutrition is the largest single contributor to disease in the world, according to the UN’s Standing Committee on Nutrition, while more children die each year from malnutrition than from AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
The lack of a (continuous) cold chain also hampers the effective distribution of vaccines – access to which could prevent more than two million deaths from diseases a year in developing countries.
In 2013 the global vaccine market was worth approximately US$24 billion in 2013 with the large majority of vaccines requiring a cold chain to remain viable.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly 50% of freeze-dried and 25% of liquid vaccines are wasted each year, with disruption in the cold chain as one of the largest contributors to this wastage.
How important vaccines can be for our well-being is exemplified by the role of refrigeration in the eradication of polio.
In 2013, the number of cases of polio occurring worldwide stood at 416, compared to 350,000 cases registered in 1988, 25 years earlier.
India as the world’s third largest pharmaceutical producer is plagued by inadequate cold logistics. An estimated nearly 20% of temperature-sensitive healthcare products in India arrive damaged or degraded, because of broken or insufficient cold chains, including a quarter of vaccines.
Temperature-sensitive medicines, that need to be kept at a temperature between 2 and 8⁰C, experience considerable market expansion around the world however, with turnover increasing by as much as 20% per year.
While these medications represent only 2% of the total volume of medicines, their value approaches 15%.