Demand for cold storage has soared in recent years as consumers increasingly shop for online groceries and frozen food. Frozen food sales reached $72.2 billion in 2022, a 34% bump from 2019.

Online grocery sales have also surged since the pandemic began and are expected to see double digit annual growth over the next five years, putting pressure on cold supply chains to keep pace.

For decades, innovations in the food and pharmaceutical industries pushed up the value of products moving through the cold chain, driving steady construction and improvements in technology to support it. But cold storage supply chain capacity hit a ceiling in the pandemic, as companies held more inventory and e-commerce demand skyrocketed.

To ward against future bottlenecks, food manufacturers and their partners are actively working to find more room.

“We are not out of the woods yet,” said Jon Wong, VP of logistics, operations and supply chain chief of staff at Amy’s Kitchen. According to Wong, utilization rates at both the company’s own facilities and its third-party partners still run relatively tight at 85% capacity, rather than the ideal 80%. In the pandemic, their team witnessed some locations exceed 115% capacity.