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Here’s What to Know About Shipping Cold Foods

Shipping Cold Foods

Does your company ship perishable foods that need to stay cold or even frozen while in transit? You need to make sure you’re using the right packaging and the right shipping techniques to keep your perishable goods cold or frozen until they reach their destination. Otherwise, you could face the wrath of unhappy customers who have received spoiled seafood, melted ice cream, or bruised fruit.

Shipping cold foods can be as easy as insulating the contents of your package properly and including a coolant to keep everything at the right temperature range. You should use plenty of packing material to make sure that your package contents don’t get damaged in transit. Use fast shipping for perishable foods, to lessen the chances that they will reach an unsafe, warm temperature during transit.

Package Cold Foods in Insulation

When you’re shipping foods that need to stay cold or frozen, you have to insulate the package to keep the cold in and the warm out. You have a couple of options for insulating a cold shipment. You can buy sturdy styrofoam coolers to protect items that need to stay cold, for example. They come in different thicknesses – the thicker the foam, the less coolant you can use.

Styrofoam crates aren’t the only option. You can also choose thermal bubble wrap. Wrap your cold foods in watertight plastic (unless you’re shipping live seafood – in that case, you can wrap the seafood in plastic but keep it open so they can get air they need to stay alive). Place your wrapped cold foods and chosen coolant inside the styrofoam cooler or wrap them up with the thermal bubble wrap. Then place them in an outer cardboard box, and then fill in the gaps between the contents and the walls of the box with styrofoam panels or sheets of bubble wrap. If you’re using gel packs as a coolant, or you’re worried that cold contents like live seafood will leak moisture, you should line the outer box with a plastic liner before you put anything else in it.

Use Dry Ice or Gel Packs to Keep Food in the Right Temperature Range

You have two basic choices of coolant to keep your frozen or cold foods fresh in transit. You shouldn’t use regular ice – it will melt quickly and leave your package contents, and even the package itself, wet and soggy. If you need to keep something frozen in transit, dry ice is the right choice. It won’t create moisture as it deteriorates. However, it will produce carbon dioxide gas, so don’t put it into an airtight container. The packaging should allow for the gas to escape. You should also write “dry ice” and the weight of the ice on the outside of the package. There are limits on how much dry ice you can ship in a package – for example, at the Post Office, you can only ship five pounds of dry ice.

Gel packs are the other option, and they’re ideal for shipping foods that need to remain cold, but not frozen. Use gel packs to ship live seafood, fresh flowers, baked goods, dairy products, fruit, and other perishable food items that need to stay between 40 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Gel packs will produce some moisture, though, so make sure your box is lined with plastic and place an absorbent pad in the bottom of the box to soak up any moisture. 

Of course, when you’re shipping perishable items, you or the recipient may require proof that the contents have remained at a safe temperature at all times during their journey through the supply chain. You can pack temperature indicators into your packing contents. If your package contents warm up too much, your temperature indicator will record it so that you and the recipient will know that the food is potentially unsafe.

Appropriate Packaging Protects Food from Damage

When you’re packing perishable foods for shipping, make sure you pack them to withstand the pressures of shipping. Place candy sticks on the top of cakes and cupcakes to keep the lid from marring the frosting. Place large, soft fruits that can bruise easily, like peaches, in molded containers to keep them from rolling around and bumping into each other. Specialized packaging is worth the investment to make sure customers are opening your shipments to find your food in the same condition it was when you sent it.

Fast Shipping Is Essential for Cold Foods

When it comes to shipping perishable foods, you can’t afford to wait. You need to make sure your shipments get through the supply chain as fast as possible, because even with coolants like gel packs or dry ice, they won’t stay cold forever. Pay the extra money for overnight shipping so you know your products will arrive fresh and ready to eat.

Shipping perishable foods to customers is possible, with the right packaging and with fast shipping. Take the right steps to keep your perishable food shipments tasty, so you can focus on giving your customers the service they need.

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