How to Ship Frozen Food & Perishable Food

An abundant harvest or the ultimate catch is usually the first step in a supplier’s mission to provide their customers with yet another batch of high-quality goods. Knowing that your products meet high standards as they make their way to the end user can be a relief. However, this good fortune can be short-lived if things go wrong before your products reach your customers. 

This, undoubtedly, is every food supplier’s worst nightmare, regardless of the type of food item they’re delivering. Thankfully, you can prevent this if you know the ins and outs of how to ship perishable food. This article provides a comprehensive guide on how to ship frozen food, perishables, and refrigerated items. Read on to learn more.

Common Challenges of Shipping Food

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimates that the world loses 14% of the food it produces. This usually occurs between harvest and retail due to several factors, including a need for proper storage. 

Unfortunately, this wastage is sometimes exacerbated when suppliers are shipping frozen food. You probably face some of these challenges too. Here are a few you should be aware of:

1. Spoilage

When shipping perishables, spoilage can occur due to improper packaging. Packing food for shipping is a very in-depth and essential process. It requires proper insulation and refrigeration. This might include creating an airtight seal using multiple layers for additional protection. 

This will keep your products cold and less likely to spoil. It can also prevent leakage, which can cause cross-contamination with other products. Leakage can also result in your customers being greeted by a soggy mess upon delivery. Proper packaging can also lessen the likelihood of exposure to humidity and heat.

2. Extreme Temperatures

Suppliers need to know how to send food in the mail. This begins with proper packaging, which ensures external temperature changes don’t impact your food items. Extreme cold temperatures can change the food’s texture, often causing it to become mushy and tasteless. Increased heat can also accelerate spoilage. The warmth makes mold, yeast, microorganisms, and enzymes easier to grow.

3. Humidity

This occurs when there is a high level of water vapor in the air. It’s often hard to predict, but extreme humidity is quite noticeable. It’s a factor you should consider when shipping cold food. Similar to scorching temperatures, humidity can also accelerate the spoilage of frozen food. The last thing you’ll want is your customers receiving food that has gone bad due to exposure to moisture during shipping. Keeping your shipment airtight and cool can prevent this.

4. Damaged Products

Proper packaging can also do more than prevent spoilage due to mold and microorganisms. It also keeps food items from getting crushed or damaged. You’ll want to ensure as little movement during shipping as possible. This will entail filling any spaces around the food items when packaged. Objects like fruit that can easily bruise or pastries that can crumble should also be well-supported and padded appropriately.

5. Supply Chain Issues

Over the last two years, many suppliers have experienced shipment delays due to supply chain issues. You may have as well. These disruptions often resulted in goods being in transit for more extended periods. This can strain packaging and storage if improperly done, increasing the likelihood of spoilage. Proper packaging can help ensure that even when there are delays, your goods can still arrive to your customers in perfect condition. 

Challenges with shipping refrigerated items are all too common. However, it’s important to limit them as much as possible. The alternative can be detrimental to both you and your customers. Failing to overcome these challenges can also have dire consequences, including:

6. Dissatisfied customers

Imagine a restaurant owner receiving a batch of spoiled oysters or a grocery dealing with a sticky mess of melted ice cream. They’re two of many scenarios you risk occurring if you don’t do everything possible to avoid the challenges of shipping frozen food

In many cases, your standards directly affect the quality of your customers’ output. After even one shipping mishap, they may be unlikely to take additional risks by using your company again.

7. Financial Loss

Losing any customer will affect your bottom line. You’ll also need to forego payments on spoiled goods and bear the cost of them yourself. This includes losing the money you spend on procuring and shipping the goods.

Bad news also spreads fast. A poor customer experience can make it challenging to get new customers to make up for the ones you’ve lost.

8. Wastage

Food wastage is a significant issue in the United States, with over 119 billion pounds of food being thrown out yearly. That’s approximately 130 billion meals which equates to over $408 billion. Undoubtedly, you’ll want to do your part to contribute as little as possible to this. You can take the necessary steps to ensure your food items aren’t spoiled during shipping.

9. Legal Complications

The Food and Drug Administration’s website currently lists 920 recalled products. Many of them include food items. Hopefully, these items will be discarded or returned before being used or consumed. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

Foodborne illnesses affect one in six Americans every year. That’s approximately 48 million people leading to 128,000 hospitalizations and 3000 deaths. Poor food handling practices are one of the many factors that contribute to the occurrence of foodborne illnesses.

Organizations found guilty in these cases often receive hefty fines and may even become defendants in class action lawsuits. The last thing you’ll want or need is for your company to be held liable due to spoilage in your shipment. If a spoiled shipment isn’t caught upon delivery and instead is served to an end customer, it can result in illness. Proper packaging can help you avoid this. You’ll also escape the financial costs and the cost to your company’s reputation.

10. Reputation Management

You might be able to pay the associated fines in the scenario mentioned above. You might even survive a lawsuit. However, your company’s reputation will be adversely affected in both cases. The last thing any food supplier needs is a reputation for poor food handling. It’s a stigma that will be extremely hard to shake. 

It might be possible to start afresh. You can implement a marketing strategy that can help you regain your good name in the industry. But it will cost you, and there’s no guarantee it will work in the long run. It’s best to avoid putting your company in a situation that can affect your brand’s reputation. Properly packaging your frozen food items seems much easier, especially when considering the alternative.

All the consequences mentioned above could be easily avoided. You simply need to ensure you know how to ship refrigerated items.

How to Ship Frozen Food: A Step-by-Step Guide

Following a comprehensive step-by-step guide on how to ship cold food is the first step to ensuring the successful shipment of your goods and keeping your customers satisfied. Here are a few guidelines you should follow.

Wrap Frozen Foods Properly

When shipping frozen food items, package each item carefully. You’ll need to place each of the items in watertight plastic bags. Encasing them in bubble wrap can also provide extra protection.

Some frozen foods may require specific packaging to maintain freshness. This might involve doubling up when bagging certain items. You may also need to consider the packaging material you use for particular food items.

Choose Containers That Provide the Best Insulation

Insulation is an essential requirement when shipping frozen food. It helps ensure the items remain frozen or cool throughout their journey. Some containers have built-in insulation that varies in thickness. These include styrofoam containers with foam insulation or dry ice boxes. Containers with thicker insulation require less coolant or refrigerant.

You can also add insulation to sturdy cardboard shipping boxes. The options available include:

If you choose the latter option, ensure the container has enough room to hold your items and the insulation you’ll need to pack around it.

Use the Best Refrigerant Choice

Most of the insulation options available use a water-based refrigerant. The liquid refrigerant is usually thickened due to gelling components contained in it. Their thermal properties are similar to water, allowing them to freeze at 0°C/+30°F. They’re ideal for shipping frozen food and perishable items. 

Whether you use cold packs or foam bricks, each is available in various sizes. You simply need to choose the appropriate weight and dimensions for your shipment. Experts recommend using one pound of refrigerant for every three pounds of frozen food, particularly meat. Refrigerant solutions last longer, keeping the food items between 32°F and 60°F.

The other alternative is using dry ice. It’s used to keep foods such as ice cream frozen. However, it doesn’t last as long as cold packs, and you’ll need to handle it with care as it can burn. It must be well-ventilated and never touch your food items when placed in a container.

Before choosing this option, check with your shipping company. They may categorize dry ice as a hazardous material. They may even disallow it if the dry ice is over a certain weight.

Control Melting and Thawing

Cardboard and water are never a good mix. If you use cardboard boxes, even if they’re sturdy and corrugated, line them with thick plastic. An absorbent mat or pad placed on the liner can provide added protection. This will help you avoid a leaky mess if your goods melt or thaw.

Of course, you reduce the likelihood of this occurring if you line your boxes with a high-quality refrigerant product. As recommended, you should also place each item in watertight plastic bags. Double bag frozen seafood items, but the bag should remain open if the seafood items are alive. This allows air to enter and keeps them safe during transit.

Limit Movement

The movement of goods during transit contributes to shipped items becoming damaged. It’s inevitable during the shipping process. However, you can try to keep your product more secure by packing the items in a way that limits movement. 

This includes eliminating extra space after placing the items and refrigerants in the shipping container. Materials such as packing peanuts and bubble wrap can fill any extra space. They also stabilize the shipment while providing padding that can lessen any damage. You should place at least two to three inches of padding to protect your food items.

Seal Your Boxes Securely and Label Them Accurately

Once your frozen items are secure in the shipping container, use pressure-sensitive packing tape to seal the box’s top and bottom. 

Double-check labeling requirements with your shipping company. This is important if they consider your shipment contains hazardous items. You’ll need to label it accordingly, indicating if there are any dangerous materials inside. 

Once you’ve reached this step in the process, you’ve taken the time and made an extra effort to ensure your goods are secure. This increases the probability of them arriving at their destination in good condition. However, you wouldn’t want to have done this only to have it delivered to the wrong place. 

Review the address on every label to ensure it will get to the right customer. Accurate labeling helps the shipping company handle your items and signals to the customer if the package needs to be handled with care.

Consider Your Shipping Options

Shipping delays are sometimes inevitable. Many suppliers learned this over the past two years, in particular. However, you can prepare for the worst-case shipping scenario by carefully considering your shipping options.

Of course, this will also depend on your customer’s location. When it comes to frozen food items, an express courier service might be the best option. Even if there is a delay, there’s a greater probability your goods will still be in good condition upon delivery when you use a faster service. 

You run the risk of spoilage by choosing standard or ground delivery services. If you use either, your items can take 10 or more days to reach their destination. It isn’t a chance you’d want to take with frozen food items, no matter how well-insulated and packed they are.

Additional Tips & Tricks for Shipping Frozen Food

There are a few food items that aren’t traditionally frozen for shipping. However, they may require a specific temperature due to unique circumstances. If this is the case, you must ensure you package them appropriately.

Fruit with shorter shelf lives fit into this category. Freezing them helps them to last until they get to their destination. Although you should pack the containers tightly, they’ll still need proper ventilation. Packing materials can also prevent them from shifting and bruising.

You’ll need to seal baked goods in airtight plastic wrap or packaging. If the items are delicate or decorated, you’ll also need to keep them from adhering to each other. Bubble wrap also helps to keep them secure once packed in the shipping container.

Maintain High-Quality Standards When Shipping Your Frozen Food with Pelton Shepherd

As a food supplier, you know all too well the risks involved in your industry. Shipping on time, reducing spoilage, and maintaining quality are daily challenges. Although many of the factors involved may not be in your control, there are steps you can take to try to avoid them.

Knowing how to ship frozen food is one of them. It involves having appropriate packaging and insulation. Pelton Shepherd’s refrigerant solutions can help you achieve this. We provide high-quality shipping ice packs to match your unique shipping needs. 

Pelton Shepherd is a trusted refrigerant supplier for food services and pharmaceuticals. We offer multiple specialized product lines, including eco-friendly ice packs, that deliver ultimate performance and sustainability. Contact us today to ensure you maintain your company’s high food standards.

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