Cheese maker warms to road-rail cool-chain

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Bel, the group behind Babybel and Kiri cheese, has started using road-rail in its cold logistics following a pilot test in March.

This is the first time that the Bel Group has used an intermodal road-rail service for its temperature-controlled inbound logistics. Logistics flows transferred from road to rail will in due course account for one third of the volumes of Kiri and Mini Babybel sold in south-east France.

The test, in conjunction with logistics partner STEF-TFE involved moving product between two plants in western France and the Givors logistics platform near Lyon.

Esthelle Grosskopf, Bel distribution manager for Western Europe said: “We need to cut CO2 emissions and reduce transport nuisances such as road congestion and noise.

“The transport and logistics of our products are at the heart of our sustainable development policy. Until now, we moved all our products by road. Today, this commitment to rail allows us to reach our targets for reducing our carbon footprint earlier than expected. With this combined road-rail transport pilot test with our partner STEF-TFE, a cold logistics expert, we are committed to a policy of adapting our transport schemes and professional practices”.

Bel is using refrigerated containers which can each accept 22 tons of goods under temperature-controlled conditions (+2° C / +4°C). The refrigerated containers are loaded with pallets of Kiri cheese at the Sablé-sur-Sarthe plant and with Mini Babybel cheese at the Evron plant. The containers are equipped with temperature sensors to ensure a constant traceability and secure the cold chain.

The containers are brought into the station’s shipping terminal by truck, and are then ferried by rail from Rennes to the Edouard Heriot site in Lyon, between 5 pm and 6:30 am. From there, they are trucked to the STEF-TFE logistics site in Givors (Rhône), where STEF-TFE handles temperature-controlled order preparation bound for Southeast France.

This road-rail system should eventually handle respectively 90 per cent and 25 per cent of  south-east bound logistics flows out of the Evron and Sablé-sur-Sarthe plants. This will cut 60 per cent of Southeast bound road traffic generated by these two plants.

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