Transport & distribution

Transport plays a vital role in the supply and distribution chains for Europe¬ís food manufacturers.  As a pillar of the EU economy, the food industry is an important user of different modes of transport, in particular, Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGV).

Food transport sustainability depends strongly on an integrated approach based on life-cycle thinking. For this reason, focussing on transport distances alone would undermine key EU economic and social policy objectives.

Progress

Performance monitoring and benchmarking in cooperation with transport operators provides the basis for improvement of efficiencies in product sourcing, modal shifts, distribution networks, route planning and the choice of vehicles.

Food companies are increasingly optimising the transport of their products by using an efficient mix of different modes of transport such as road, rail, sea, and a very small proportion of air links. Although intermodal transport represents a small part of goods transport, this trend is increasing rapidly and European food manufacturers are exploring innovative solutions to reach its full potential.

This requires advanced route planning and optimising distribution in order to make use of spare capacity on the return leg of a delivery journey to reduce empty running. Capacity load optimisation, ensuring full truck or container loads, can also substantially contribute to reduced transport miles.

At the same time, a few companies are experimenting with alternative fuels, for example, produced from waste.

Opportunities

  • Increasing cooperation with transport operators, suppliers and retailers to further improve planning and distribution
  • An integrated perspective that balances transport mode and distance against other sustainability criteria in sourcing decisions
  • Efficient infrastructure, in particular more high-quality and efficient rail services

  • Transport improvements from food and drink manufacturers are also currently hampered by a lack of communication regarding possible synergies, networks, back-loading opportunities and a general lack of flexibility concerning rail freight industry. In terms of waterborne transport, more efficient entry points into European markets are needed, avoiding unnecessary traffic crossing Europe.