Always Fresh: The Small Business Guide to Shipping Perishable Food


The refrigerated transportation market has grown at a rate of 12.44% over the last five years. We have a global economy and increased e-commerce to thank for this.

If you plan on shipping perishable goods, you need to get familiar with the best practices for shipping your product. Otherwise, you risk it spoiling.

Follow this guide to ensure you select the best packing and shipping solution for your perishable products.


It Starts with the Packaging

The first step in having successful perishable shipments is to package your goods in the right packaging. You need to focus on keeping the heat out by choosing the right combination of packing and cooling material.


Packing Materials

The traditional route is to use a styrofoam box or sheets. Both of these are then placed inside a cardboard box since styrofoam is easily damaged during shipment.

Pay attention to the thickness of the styrofoam. The thicker the styrofoam is, the less dry ice or ice packs you’ll need to include.  You can learn more here on How To ship Frozen Food to get started.

You also need to choose between a full box or sheets. The individual sheets are more affordable but may not be as effective.

If styrofoam is too bulky, consider using insulated liners, insulated pads, or air-filled insulated liners. These solutions get packed into your box around your product to fill the space.

An insulated liner has the texture of bubble wrap and has a silvery emergency blanket look to it. Air-filled liners also use the thermal properties of air, but on a bigger scale.

Insulated pads combine the insulating properties of styrofoam and insulated liners. The advantage of this solution is that it’s a greener option than styrofoam.


Mark Your Packages

You need to mark your shipments to inform the carrier of the sensitive nature of your shipment. Make sure the outside of the package has “Perishable Keep Refrigerated” on the outside.

This will let the carrier and your customer know that your shipment requires immediate attention and special care. Otherwise, you risk your shipment getting left in someplace warm where it could spoil.


Keeping Your Shipment Cool

Do you need to keep your perishable items cold or frozen? If you only need to keep the temperature regulated to cool, then ice packs will work. If you need your goods to stay frozen, then dry ice is the way to go.


Ice Packs

Unless your customers are shipping back to you, focus on buying one-time use ice packs. This will help you save money.

Before you make any final decisions on the ice packs you’ll use, test them out. This will help you determine the ideal number and size you need to keep your product at the correct temperature for the duration of the shipment.


Dry Ice

This packing material considered hazardous because it can cause extreme burns to the skin that comes into contact with it.

If you use dry ice, it will change how you label your packages and choose your shipping partner. To determine how much dry ice you need, you need to know the weight of your product.

Two pounds of food needs two pounds of dry ice to stay frozen for four hours. If you want to keep it frozen for two days, you’ll need 10 pounds of dry ice.


Choose the Right Shipping Partner and Service

Working with the right shipping partner can mean the difference between your product arriving fresh or spoiled. This article can help you ensure your shipping solution of choice is up to date on modern supply chain innovations.


Retail Pricing

Never build your shipping budget based on the retail shipping prices you can find online. Instead, call parcel carriers directly to negotiate a volume-based rate.


Shipping Speed

The faster you can get your shipments delivered, the less insulation and ice you’ll need. Don’t assume you need the fastest possible shipping method. Overnight shipping is often significantly more expensive than two-day shipping.

You can spend a bit more on ice with two-day shipping. This will save you money on not having to use overnight shipping.

If you can offer your customers more affordable shipping, they’re more likely to order from you again. If you offer free shipping, the lower shipping costs will increase your profit margin.

Ultimately, your shipping speed will depend on the lifespan of your product. If it has an extremely short lifespan, then you may not have the option of using anything longer than overnight.

Ask yourself what the slowest method you can use is that won’t compromise your product’s safe arrival.


Strict Scheduling

Have a precision shipping schedule for your orders. This will ensure your product gets packaged at the last possible moment. That way, it spends as little time as possible in the box.

Also, try to have all of your shipments go out at the beginning of the week to help prevent your package from getting caught in a warehouse during the weekend.

You don’t want to package your item with the intent of it lasting two days only for the package to take three or four days to get to the destination.


Create an Experience

Online shoppers have plenty of options, so why not use your packaging to differentiate your company? Styrofoam and ice packs can look industrial.

Create a memorable unboxing experience by investing in custom packaging. This could be as simple as using a cardboard box that’s your brand color, or you could label the product packages inside of the box.

Unboxing videos are popular for brand reviewers and fans. This will help you curate and source user-created content for your content marketing strategy.


Start Shipping Perishable Goods Today

The key to having a successful strategy when shipping perishable goods is to start with the basics of packaging and ice packs.

Focus on accurately calculating your insulation needs so that your product stays at the right temperature without going over the budget.

Then work with a carrier that offers competitive rates and reliable service.

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