International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses Celebrates 125 Years of Excellence

IARW_notitle_125AnniveraryIn April 2016, the International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses (IARW) celebrates its 125th anniversary.

A Core Partner of the Global Cold Chain Alliance, the story of IARW begins in 1891, when 16 men, five of whom represented refrigerated warehouses, met at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Chicago. At this very first conference, close to the beginning of the 20th century, the attendees recognized the importance of warehousing and determined to join together to form the first public warehouse group. 

The American Warehousemen’s Association (AWA) was born.

Shortly after its conception, AWA initiated a Cold Storage Committee. Many years– and names – later, this would become the International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses.

With the outbreak of World War I, the United States was inundated with the need to provide vast quantities of food, mostly meat, to many of its allies. This prompted the construction of more refrigerated warehouses to meet the demand for storage. By 1923, there were 5.8 million cubic meters of public storage in the country. In the same year, AWA published its first member- ship directory, listing a grand total of 97 cold storage firms.

The frozen food industry made great strides in 1928, when Clarence Birdseye of the General Foods Co. invented the double-belt freezer. In 1930, the company introduced the first U.S. frozen food department, freezing and selling foods such as meat, berries, and oysters, and changing the refrigerated warehouse industry forever.

By the end of World War II, U.S. public storage had expanded drastically during the course of the conflict to 44 million cubic feet of cold storage.

IARW, realizing the need for greater focus on the science of refrigeration, established The Refrigeration Research Foundation (TRRF). This was later renamed the World Food Logistics Organization.

The 1950s was the decade of convenient frozen foods such as TV dinners and orange juice concentrate. For the first time, demand became greater than supply. By then, the AWA cold division had become the National Association of Refrigerated Warehouses (NARW), which became independent of the AWA in 1961. Three years later, the group decided that every NARW member would also be a member of TRRF (WFLO). The Assembly of Committees began its annual gathering in 1965.

An increased focus on the international refrigerated food environment changed the name of the game in the 1970s, when NARW fittingly replaced “national” with “international,” creating the International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses.

In 1991, IARW celebrated its 100th anniversary. Since then, IARW has opened international offices in India, China, Latin America and Europe.

Other milestones include the creation of a relationship with the Refrigerated Warehouse and Transport Association of Australia Ltd, (RWTA) and the inclusion of greater geographical diversity in IARW membership and board representation.

In 2007, IARW and WFLO joined with IACSC and IRTA to form the Global Cold Chain Alliance.

Today, GCCA has more than 1,300 members in 75 countries representing the refrigerated warehousing industry.

View exclusive archival photos and learn more about the IARW anniversary.


By Alexandra Walsh. This article was originally published in the March-April 2016 issue of COLD FACTS magazine.