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Good Times Roll for Public Cold Storage Operators in United States and Canada.

Occupancy reported to be hovering at 90%, range in most regions. Expansion taking place from coast to coast as operators build to keep up with demand for space.

The health and well being of the public cold storage industry in North America is strong and generally enjoying good prospects for the future. That was the overall assessment given to the Trends, Marketing, Industry Relations Committee of the International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses (IARW) during an August meeting held in Washington, DC.

Consolidation of the industry, which has manifested itself in a blizzard of mergers led by Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) buyout activity in recent years, has apparently run its course. Expansion of coldstores is ongoing, though a number of facilities have closed for various reasons. With the exception of presently manageable shortages of qualified labor and reliable transportation support in some quarters, there is every reason for optimism on the eve of the new millennium.

"Business is generally good, with increases seen in areas around ports," reported Anthony Seymour, chairman of the IARW's North Atlantic Chapter. He added that activity "is flat in the Mid-Atlantic states" and "consolidation in the wholesale business and [among] manufacturers is changing [the location of] where food products are stored, causing some loss of business."

Construction of new facilities and expansion of existing properties has taken place throughout the region, as follows: Atlas Cold Storage in Toronto (+10,000 pallet positions); Conestoga Cold Storage in Mississauga (+14,000 pallets), CFM in Montreal (+8,000 pallets). In addition, Hall's Warehouse Corp. has expanded in New Jersey, while AmeriCold in building in Virginia.

"Mostly high occupancy" was reported, with Y2K-related build-ups in Canada making space "full or committed." Coldstores in Maryland were only 70-80% full, due to drought conditions which reduced crop yields there.

Looking down the road for the next six to 12 month, Seymour made the following observations:

* Very good outlook in Canada, though increasing space may affect pricing.

* Steady business levels are expected in the US Mid-Atlantic, where space is tight.

* The outlook for imports is bright.

* The Northeastern drought will have a distinct impact on crops, and eventually on storage.

* A changing customer mix is likely, brought on by PRW consolidation and "who the `bigs' want vs. regional PRWs."

Peering into the crystal ball even further, here is Seymour's forecast for the next two to three years:

* Continued growth in Canada, with increasing space coming on line in Quebec.

* Rising demand for arranging transportation.

* Grow rates will vary by state.

North Pacific

Commenting on development on the other side of the continent, Bonnie Geise of the IARW's North Pacific Chapter noted that "general business conditions in the Puget Sound (of Washington state) remain very good. The economy is strong."

On the pricing side, not all is well, as her report on business and economic trends spelled out: "Capacity in the Puget Sound has exceeded demand for the past six months. Cold storages in the areas are dropping rates to compete for business. Most small- to mid-range size commercial businesses in the area have their own freeze and chill rooms. Seafood and fruit prices are up, creating a very fast-paced flow through the cold storages. Export to Russia is a factor ..."

Looking ahead, Ms. Geise commented, "The outlook for the immediate six to 12 months would appear to be better than the first half of the year. It seems that the Eastern cold stores are filling up (with seafood), causing the flow to back up in the West."

South Pacific

Public refrigerated warehouse occupancy remains high in the South Pacific region, which is dominated by California. Statewide, upwards of 500,000 cubic feet of additional space has come on line during the past year. Indications are that Millard Refrigerated Services has plans to build in the north, probably in Sacramento. Meanwhile, Richmond Wholesale is currently tacking on a 100,000 square foot addition to its San Francisco premises.

Strong demand will prevail among cold storage users during the next 12 months, predicted Ardell Barnes, chairman of the Trends, Marketing, Industry Relations Committee. "The emphasis on logistics implications and the combination of heavy crops and large seafood catches, along with continued heavy poultry processing, all signal continued high demand for space."

He continued: "The larger players will continue to expand their ability to manage additional cubic footage, as a part of the enhanced information technology community they find themselves in."

Barnes also commented on the merging of retail supermarket operations and the consolidation that goes with it. "A keen example is the Fred Meyer/Smith's/Kroger acquisition-merger activity in Arizona, which is changing the character of Southwest Storage and Distribution Company in Phoenix," he

said. "In this case probably (there is) a positive result for Southwest Storage and Distribution, but the size and magnitude of these mergers overall leaves an unknown element for the industry in the future ... Who knows what the ramifications might be ultimately?"

Southeast Region

From Louisiana and Florida to Georgia and North Carolina, additions and new construction of public cold storage space in the US Southeast region has been upwards of 600,000 square feet during the past year or so. Meanwhile, it is anticipated that two major supermarket chains plan to bring 250,000 square feet of private space on line within the next two years.

Generally, business conditions in the Southeast were described as good. While a strong dollar has resulted in a rise of imports, the collapse of the ruble has greatly diminished exports to Russia and reduced blast freezing operations. PRW occupancy rates are said to range from 70-80% in most areas.

Southwest Region

Business and economic trends were reported to be favorable in the Southwest Region. Poultry inventories are very high, and a record harvest in Mexico brought carryover volume to Texas coldstores. Indeed, there was a 50% increase in border crossings of broccoli and strawberries. The future continues to look promising.

Meanwhile, noted Raphael Camasco of Brownsville-based Tex-Mex Cold Storage, Mexican tariffs on imports of many frozen prepared food items were reduced from 16% to 8%

"Duties are scheduled to go down to zero in a few years," he added. "We are already seeing more prepared foods going into Mexico."

As for construction, approximately 60 million additional cubic feet of refrigerated space have come on line in the region during the past five years -- 10 million of which were added during the past 12 months.

Millard has expanded in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, while Loop Cold Storage has added capacity in South Texas.

As for private warehousing, both Wal-Mart and the Albertson's retail chains have added space.

Missouri Valley

Business levels were said to be "generally good" in the Missouri Valley, which has seen expansion of PRWs in Iowa, North Dakota and Minnesota. Occupancy is presently about 90% of capacity.

Inventories were said to be strong everywhere, with coldstores almost full. High levels of pork supplies are already on hand at a time when more pigs are waiting to be slaughtered.

On the PRW construction front, AmeriCold is building in Carthage. Meanwhile, it has removed space in Kansas City. Atlas is expanding.

Great Lakes

Perhaps the most guarded report came from the Great Lakes region, where occupancy rates are nonetheless in the 90% range. While general business conditions were described as "stable," there was some concern that this could change should interest rates rise. It was also noted that margins for processors and manufacturers are continuing to be squeezed.

Interestingly, conflicting outlooks for the next two to three years ranged from "a good time not to expand" and "a struggle," to "good."

During the last year or so, however, there has been a significant amount of expansion of PRW operations, exemplified by Hanson in Indiana, Ocean County Warehouse in Michigan, Millard in Illinois, and Merchants Cold Storage in Ohio.

As for recent construction of private space: Graybell Tracking built a freezer plant in Michigan and Kraft added 30,000 square feet to its distribution center in Wisconsin. -- Reported by John M. Saulnier

Millard Refrigerated Services Opens Phase II in Louisville

Millard Refrigerated Services, Omaha, Nebraska, USA, has opened Phase II of its distribution center in Louisville, Kentucky.

The 46,000-square foot addition expands the facility to 202,000 square feet, with 6.1 million cubic feet of storage space. The Louisville operation is one of 34 warehousing, distribution and processing centers with 165 million cubic feet run by Millard.

ICF Rail Routes through Serbia Being Restored Following War

One of the rail routes through Serbia that was cut off by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bombing during the Kosovo air war was set to go back into service Sept. 26. Another won't be back on track for at least a year, according to Intercontainer-Interfrigo (ICF).

During the Kosovo war, a number of railway lines and bridges in Serbia were severely damaged. Basel, Switzerland-based Intercontainer-Interfrigo, a pan-European combined transport operator, set up detours through Romania and Bulgaria for traffic running between Greece and Macedonia and the rest of Europe.

The most direct route between West European countries and Greece and Macedonia is through the ICF hub in Sopron (Hungary), which passes through Serbia. Two railway passages were damaged on this major corridor: one over the Danube in Novi Sad and another near Grdelica on the line to Skopje, Macedonia.

Lengthy Repair Work Ahead

According to information recently received from officials representing the Yugoslav Railways (JZ), work on repairing the Danube bridge in Novi Sad will take at least another year. During this time freight trains will continue to transit via a 90-kilometer long detour through Orlovat and Pancevo, joining back up with the main line in Belgrade.

Bridge Reopening Set

Again according to JZ information, the bridge near Grdelica was expected to re-open on Sept. 26. This will enable the transit corridor through Yugoslavia to and from Greece and Macedonia, out of service since April 13, to become operational once more. Two and four days will thus be shaved off journey times to Greece and Macedonia, respectively.

Containers and swap bodies will cover the distance between the Intercontainer-Interfrigo hub in Sopron and Thessaloniki/Athens two days faster than was the case with the detour around Serbia, while consignments to and from Skopje will have four days shaved off their journey.

Blanchard Elected World Group President

Mark Blanchard has been elected president of the World Group, an association of independent warehousing and distribution companies, at its annual meeting in Pasadena, California, USA.

Blanchard is vice president of sales and marketing at New Orleans Cold Storage (NOCS), and has chaired the World Group marketing committee for the past 12 years. A graduate of Nicholls State University, he joined NOCS in a sales capacity in 1985, and has served on the Board of Directors of the U.S. Poultry and Egg Export Council. He is active in the International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses and is a board member of NOCS.

Established in 1978, the World Group is comprised of American Cold Storage, Henningsen Cold Storage, Merchants Terminal Corporation, NOCS, Nordic Refrigerated Services, Total Logistic Control (TLC), Trenton Cold Storage and U.S. Growers Cold Storage. It has distribution facilities in virtually every region of the United States and Canada, and offers processing and co-packing services, transportation and pool distribution, complete import/export services and a total capacity of 220 million cubic feet.

AmeriCold Tries Space Communications, Opens Warehouse for Perdue and Kmart

AmeriCold Logistics, Atlanta, Georgia, largest US provider of temperature-controlled storage and food distribution services, has begun testing a new system for mobile satellite communication and vehicle tracking.

The company has also opened a new six-million-cubic-foot warehousing and distribution center in Strasburg, Virginia. It was custom designed to meet the growing warehousing and product distribution needs of Perdue Farms and Super Kmart.

The satellite system will enable carriers and logistics-based businesses to track and review the progress of their shipments in real-time via the Internet. AmeriCold's Carthage, Missouri, warehouse is the first to install the new technology; if test runs are successful, it will be added at all the company's distribution centers.

A true information management solution, the on-line system integrates satellite tracking with existing information systems. Transportation carriers and their customers will have access through password-protected pages on the Internet and use the service to find out where a truck is and when it is expected to arrive at its destination.

Perdue signed a multi-year contract to cover frozen, refrigerated and deli poultry products services at Strasburg. AmeriCold will provide cold storage and outbound transportation, and use its trailer system to deliver Perdue products to retailers more efficiently. Strasburg will also handle the warehousing and distribution of dry, refrigerated and frozen products for SuperKmart outlets in Kmart's East Coast region.

Expanded services include installing Odenberg case freezers, which offer faster and more consistent freezing. Besides saving Perdue and Kmart the expense of building and operating their own warehouses, AmeriCold will reduce their operating and transportation expenses through its consolidation program, and use its information system, including RF scanning, to track product inventory from receipt of goods through on time delivery.

WLR Foods Inks 5-Year Deal With Total Logistic Control

WLR Foods, Inc., Broadway, Virginia, USA, third largest turkey processor and seventh largest poultry processor in the world, has approved a five-year deal with Total Logistic Control (TLC), Zeeland, Michigan, to handle domestic distribution. TLC will handle more than 33,000 truckloads of frozen and refrigerated poultry products a year for WLR, involving all eight of the processor's packaging and processing facilities.

Versacold Serves Overwaitea With Expanded Warehouse

Versacold Corp., Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, is expanding its perishables warehouse at Abbotsford to serve the Langley-based Overwaitea Food Group under a long-term supply agreement announced in August.

Meanwhile Versacold, Canada's largest supplier of frozen and refrigerated foods services, reported revenues for the second quarter of 1999 crimped by labor troubles in Ontario and late berry crops and slower than anticipated business for seasonal packaged goods out West. But sales were up for the six months ended June 30.

The expanded and upgraded warehouse at Abbotsford will open in November. Versacold had been a third-party distribution provider to Overwaitea since 1985, but has now agreed to handle distribution services in British Columbia for all of the chain's frozen foods, meats, dairy products, baked goods and fruits and vegetables.

Sales for the second quarter were $29.3 million, versus $29.7 million for the same period in 1998. Over six months, however, revenues were up from $55.8 million to $59 million. Net income was $599,000 for the quarter, compared to $1.2 million a year earlier, but for the entire first half the company netted $1.42 million versus $1.26 million.

Tour of St. Louis Warehouse Part of Productivity Meeting

The 1999 Food Industry Productivity Convention and Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, Oct. 31-Nov. 3 will include a tour of the refrigerated warehouse and distribution center operated there by Supervalu, Inc.

Sessions at the convention will cover a host of logistics issues, from direct store delivery to theft prevention. Results of the 1999 Distribution Center Benchmarking Study, prepared by the Food Distributors International (FDI) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), will be revealed at one session, "The State Of Food Distribution Logistics."

The tour site refrigerated warehouse facility, which was built in 1983 for St. Louis-headquartered Wetterau before that wholesaler was acquired by Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Supervalu, includes 226,000 square feet of space for perishables, divided into zones maintained at -20 [degrees] F for ice cream, -10 [degrees] F for other frozen foods, 28 [degrees] F for fresh meat and 30 [degrees] F for produce and packaged meat. It went through an expansion and full renovation last year.

For more information, contact the FDI at 201 Park Washington Ct., Falls Church, Virginia 22046; Telephone: 1-703-532-9400; Fax: 1-703-538-4673.

Henningsen Builds Warehouse To Serve J.R. Simplot Plant

Frozen potato products producer J.R. Simplot will have a new warehouse mostly to itself (although other regional clients will be solicited) in Grand Forks, North Dakota, USA, thanks to Henningsen Cold Storage, Hillsboro, Oregon.

The 120,000-square foot facility, situated on Interstate 29, will feature a state-of-the-art refrigeration system and will be fully racked to provide 20,000 pallet positions. There will be a 14-door loading dock for trucks and a five-door dock for rail cars.

"We look forward to strengthening our partnership with Simplot in Grand Forks," remarked Tony Lucarelli, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Henningsen. The Grand Forks facility will be Henningsen's seventh, bringing the company's frozen and refrigerated capacity to 24 million cubic feet.

United States Cold Storage Launches PDQ in Mexico

United States Cold Storage, Inc. (USCS), Cherry Hill, New Jersey, USA, has extended its PDQ less-than-load truck freight consolidation program for frozen food to major destinations in Mexico.

PDQ (which stands for "Proven Distribution Quality") shipments will be put together at the USCS refrigerated warehouse in Laredo, Texas, for delivery to Monterey, Guadalajara, Mexico City and Cancun.

Assembled orders will be staged and loaded on specially selected carrier equipment for movement south of the border. USCS transportation coordinators will oversee completion of forwarding documentation and all details of export certification.

"PDQ Mexico provides our customers the opportunity to conveniently position products for cost-efficient and timely movement to Mexico," said Luis Guardiola, vice president and area manager for the Laredo distribution center (Phone: 1-956-722-3951; Fax: 1-956-723-8386).

U.S. Growers Cold Storage Expands Facility in California

U.S. Growers Cold Storage, Vernon, California, USA, has completed a 144,000-square foot addition to its refrigerated warehouse complex -- no small feat, since the site was just a small patch of ground sandwiched between two other warehouses run by the same company.

Stellar Group, which is based in Jacksonville, Florida, but has a branch in Fresno, Calif., had charge of the project, which includes 87,500 square feet of freezer space, 16,500 square feet of refrigerated dock, a 16,500-square foot office and an underground parking garage of the same size, and 7,000 square feet of "welfare" space.

Time was of the essence in completing the addition, both to meet the needs of clients and a deadline set by the City of Vernon. Construction materials included structural steel frame, insulated wall panels and a modified Bitumen roofing system.

Australian Logistics Operator Acquires Loop Cold Storage

P&O Cold Storage, Sydney, Australia, has acquired the operations of Loop Cold Storage, San Antonio, Texas, USA, except for a warehouse in McAllen, Texas, which will continue to be owned by Jack McGuire.

The Australian company already owned US operations situated in California, Nevada and Utah, plus other public refrigerated warehouses in Argentina. Loop's dominant position in the San Antonio market makes it a good fit with the company's other US business, said P&O managing director John Randall.

Loop operates 5.5 million cubic feet of freezer space in San Antonio, with a capacity of 40 million pounds of frozen food at -10 [degrees] F. It is currently in the midst of an expansion project that will increase capacity by 30%. Loop provides logistical services as well as warehousing for frozen food processors, foodservice operators and retailers.

Alford Stock Goes Big Time, Traded on Nasdaq Market

Alford Refrigerated Warehouses, Inc., largest public refrigerated warehousing operation in the US Southwest, has begun trading its stock on the Nasdaq small cap market under the symbol ALFO.

Based in Dallas, Alford operates four strategically-situated warehouses in Texas with a combined area of 1.5 million square feet and total capacity of 32 million cubic feet. Until Aug. 20, it was traded only on over-the-counter pink sheets.

At the same time Alford went on the Nasdaq market, it announced the sale of a vacant lot next to its Cadiz Street facility in Dallas. Selling price was $300,000, and the deal was set to close Sept. 3.

European Rail Group Gets Back to Basics In Major Reorganization of Management

Intercontainer-Interfrigo (ICF), the European rail transport consortium based in Basel, Switzerland, announced another reorganization July 27, while abandoning a previous plan to split the group into five new operating companies.

An extraordinary meeting of ICF shareholders was aimed at ensuring Intercontainer-Interfrigo's continued presence in the transport market and relaunching ICF as a pan-European operator. Shareholders maintained that there is still a market need for an operator that can offer a pan-European network, and took the following decisions:

* Restructuring of the company will continue, concentrating on achieving the maximum added value for ICF as a pan-European operator. As a consequence of this, the division of ICF into five new operating companies will not be implemented.

* Management will be reorganized.

* Necessary measures will be taken to improve the company's profitability.

* ICF will be actively relaunched in traditional markets. The existing decentralized system, which was the basis of the restructuring plans, will be retained. ICF currently holds a stake in ten companies in Europe specializing in combined transport, and maintains 15 offices in Europe and the CIS.

"In taking our decisions, we also took into account ICF's image in the market," said Rene Hellinghausen, recently elected president and general director. "Nine months of discussions about the company's structures are enough, and have severely tested our clients' patience. We have also established that clients operating throughout Europe continue to demand genuine 'one stop shopping' and that transport companies operating along particular axes prefer to buy locally. ICF is the only European operator that can meet all these requirements."

With the election of Livio Ambrogio as a member, the board reinforced its stronger market orientation. He is managing director of Ambrogio Transport S.p.A., based in Gallarate, Italy, a transport company specializing in combined transport. Ambrogio's close cooperation with Incontainer over many years symbolize both the continuity and the relaunch of ICF.

At the same meeting, Greek Railways and Portuguese Railways became new members of the consortium, replacing Swedish Railways and Hungarian Railways, which left ICF at the end of June. Besides Hellinghausen, the new management team includes Patrice Pinoli and Mark W. Smith as directors and members of the Executive Committee.

AmeriCold Appoints Balestra International Vice President

James M. Balestra has been named to the newly created post of vice president-international at AmeriCold Logistics, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. The position was created because an estimated 70% of AmeriCold's clients either export or import frozen and refrigerated products.

Balestra's job will be to create single-source logistics programs for both retail and foodservice customers engaged in international trade. He recently served as international managing director for Roadway Express.

Metl-Span Opens New Plant in Virginia To Step up Panel Volume

Metl-Span of Lewisville, Texas, the largest manufacturer of polyurethane insulated building panels in the United States, has opened a new 4,000-square-foot plant in the Southpoint Business Park, which is just south of Richmond, Virginia.

The facility will manufacture insulated building panels and employ up to 80 people when fully staffed. "We are pleased to be coming to Virginia," said Karl F. Hielscher, president of Metl-Span. "Our commitment is to virtually double capacity in this region."

Metl-Span is a wholly owned subsidiary of Grupo IMSA, the Monterrey, Mexico-based steel company, with numerous other manufacturing facilities throughout the Americas. "We're an American company in the widest sense of the word," said IMSA President Eugenio Clariond Reyes.

"We have plants from the United States to South America," Reyes added. "We were once accustomed to a captive market. Now we benchmark ourselves against the best companies in the world. Grupo IMSA is Latin America's largest steelmaker and is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (IMY)."

Metl-Span was founded in 1968 when Controlled Building Systems Corporation began operation in Dallas, Texas, as a manufacturer of foamed-in-place insulated panels. In 1974, Hussmann Company, a subsidiary of Whitman Corporation, purchased the assets of Controlled Building Systems and continued a similar operation as the Insulated Panel Division.

Metl-Span was formed in 1983 as a unit of Air Foil Impellers. Management of the two companies purchased the assets of the Insulated Panel Division and moved the operation to a new facility in the Dallas suburb of Lewisville. Expansions in 1986 and 1990 more than doubled the size of the plant (to 80,000 square feet) to accommodate an automatic continuous laminating line.

In 1987, Metl-Span purchased the assets of a polystyrene block molding company in nearby Midlothian, Texas. This acquisition ensured quality raw material for the laminated line. Three years later, Metl-Span formed one of the first joint ventures in Poland with a state-owned manufacturer to fabricate and market urethane panels for Eastern Europe. That same year Metl-Span was separated as a subsidiary under an IRS ruling to become a Texas corporation.

Metl-Span was acquired by Grupo IMSA in 1994. The Mexican steel company was founded in 1936, and currently consists of four divisions: Steel Processed Products, Batteries and Auto parts, Aluminum Products, and Steel and Plastic Products.

Innovative E-Commerce Program at CSI Keeps Shippers in Touch 24 Hours a Day

It's 10 p.m. Or 10 a.m. Or any other time of day. Do you know where your frozen food shipment is? You do if you're using CSI TRAK[it][TM], a new interactive inventory tracking system from CSI, Secaucus, NJ, USA-based refrigerated warehousing and distribution logistics company.

CSI TRAK[it] allows clients to log on to a secure Internet connection to check inventory status, access detailed reports, place orders and review details on orders 24 hours a day. It's a CSI exclusive, the company says, and further details are available at its web site,

Part of Prologis, which also owns Frigoscandia Distribution in Europe and a logistics software supplier called Insight, CSI is a pioneer in such programs as dedicated retail distribution services and direct store delivery. Coupled with a full-service supply chain solution, it has a transportation service network that can handle all kinds of deliveries nationwide, and can also take over a portion of a customer's fleet.

CSI cart create "rainbow pallets" of mixed products to meet the demands of manufacturers for reduced incremental freight costs. It can build modules for single or multiple customers, which can be cross-docked for final delivery to the customer's distribution center or forwarded directly to the point of sale. The company also has a drop trailer program allowing manufacturers to park their trailers at CSI sites -- where CSI workers have them loaded and ready to go when drivers arrive.
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Comment:Good Times Roll for Public Cold Storage Operators in United States and Canada.
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 1999
Previous Article:Urge to Merge Still Strong in Food Industry With 386 Deals Tracked in First Six Months.
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