Nearly three quarters of UK cold chain operators say the sector has become “more resilient” after battling the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, but they warn that recruitment remains a challenge.

According to a survey by the Cold Chain Federation, almost 75% of respondents, when asked about the long-term effects of Covid, said the UK cold chain is now more resilient to future disruption and had benefitted from a greater public awareness of the importance of the cold chain.

Respondents also cited the emergence of stronger relationships between customers and suppliers to manage risk.

However, most of the survey respondents also said another long term fall-out from the pandemic is a worsening of workforce challenges such as recruitment and retention.

Tom Southall, Cold Chain Federation executive director, said: “Cold chain operators have faced crisis after crisis over the past five years, not least the repeated uncertainty and disruption of post-Brexit customs changes, the impacts of Covid restrictions and sky-rocketing energy costs.

“Throughout all this adversity, the industry has pulled together and found new ways to carry on providing the crucial temperature-controlled storage and distribution services which are so relied on for the nation’s food and pharma supply chains.

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“Our new survey results show that this period of adversity has had a lasting impact in making the cold chain even more resilient to disruption.”

However Southall said, the industry is still battling some negative effects of the pandemic, particularly in relation to recruitment and retention and called for government support for greater investment.

He said: “It’s not all positive - with many of the survey respondents also considering that Covid has had a long-term impact in exacerbating existing challenges with the recruitment and retention of people in our industry.

“Our people are at the heart of how the cold chain will grow and evolve to meet the nation’s changing needs, so investment in recruitment and skills development remains crucial.

“Operators’ investments will be at their most effective with the right engagement from Government, and the Cold Chain Federation will continue to advocate for this support.”

The new survey data will be published as part of the Federation’s State of the Cold Chain Report 2023 in late July.