4 Tips for Shipping Fresh Food – And Keeping It That Way
If you have a small business that ships food and other perishables, there are very few things that will make your customers unhappier than receiving a food delivery from you that's melted, thawed or otherwise unusable. You don't want to lose customers or spend your profits replacing spoiled goods. To package your food shipments so that they arrive still fresh or frozen, choose the right packing materials and provide the proper insulation and cooling. Here are a few tips on packing food and shipping perishables successfully.
Choose the Right Wrapping Materials for Food Shipping
Pack your perishable food to minimize spilling and maximize temperature retention. Start with plastic zippered bags or plastic containers with secure lids. Wrap each smaller container with more plastic wrap or with aluminum foil to keep the temperature in and to prevent spillage.
If you're sending food in breakable containers, such as glass or pottery, wrap each container in bubble roll and surround them with foam peanuts. Don't use newspaper to wrap cold, insulated materials, as it tears when it gets wet and doesn't provide enough protection.
Choose the Right Box and Packing Materials
Pack your fresh or frozen food in a foam container or an insulated corrugated carton. Don't reuse boxes; instead, use a new box with each food shipment. Boxes weaken every time you use them, and reusing a box could be disastrous when shipping perishables.
Polystyrene foam, polyurethane foam and reflective materials all reduce the transfer of heat. Consider placing a foam box or cooler inside a corrugated cardboard box for shipping. The thicker the walls of your container, the more likely the contents are to maintain a constant temperature.
The final wrapping of your box is crucial as well. Many people like to use duct tape for just about any taping job, but it doesn't work when you're shipping hot or cold items. Heat makes it melt, and cold makes it loosen.
Avoid masking tape as well. Choose tapes designed for shipping, and tape every edge of your box to help keep the cold contained.
Choose the Right Insulation and Cooling Materials
Proper insulation is key to shipping seafood, meat, fruit and dairy products. Guarantee the temperature range you need to maintain to keep the fresh or frozen status of the foods you're shipping intact. Even fully cooked foods or smoked foods, such as hams or smoked salmon, must be kept cold in shipping. You want to keep fresh foods from freezing or rotting while keeping frozen foods from melting or thawing. Foods that aren't frozen should be chilled to at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit (most refrigerators are set to 38 degrees Fahrenheit, as a comparison).
Choosing the right cooling material is key to protecting your fresh or frozen foods. Dry ice is very effective at maintain cold temperatures, but it can be dangerous to use. Wear gloves and goggles if you choose to use it, don't let it touch any food directly, and leave room for it to expand. Avoid using actual ice for anything but a drive across town when making a personal delivery.
Alternatively, consider packing your foods with cold packs. These gel coolants hold their temperature for a long time and don't pose the same hazards as dry ice. Pack in layers, with your food at the center of the box and insulation surrounding it on all sides.
Choose a Speedy Delivery Option When Shipping Perishables
When you're sending fresh or frozen food, ship it early in the week. Many of the major carriers have slower schedules over the weekend. If you ship on a Thursday or Friday, your perfectly packed shipment could end up sitting in a warehouse for far longer than you'd like.
Label your package well when using a shipping company. Make sure it's clearly labeled "Perishable" and "Keep Refrigerated." Include your own name and phone number on the label, as well as that of the recipient of the package. Let the recipient know precisely when to expect the package so the contents can be placed into the refrigerator or freezer as quickly as possible.
Hot foods are generally not shipped through commercial carriers, but if you're packing them to deliver them yourself, use the same general guidelines. Surround your steaming hot, cooked items with hot packs that can insulate and hold in the heat so your dishes arrive still warm and ready to eat.
Shipping perishable foods promptly and with proper packaging can make all the difference between a happy customer who orders from you again and a bad review on social media. Choose the right packing and insulation materials to keep cold foods cold and to keep your business thriving.
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