Key reminders for shipping perishables safely
Perishable shipping during your peak season
It's no surprise we get questions from both individuals and businesses about shipping perishables. Customers ask how to ship frozen food and how to mail regular food a lot, especially around busy holidays like Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, and the winter holidays.
Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to prepare for shipping a high volume of perishables during these periods. You want to start with educating yourself about the process, getting your packing materials in order, and making sure you’re offering the right shipping and delivery options to ensure perishable items are in pristine condition when they’re opened by your customers.
There are four major considerations in perishable shipping:
- Choosing the right boxes/packaging
- Using the right insulation
- Picking the right refrigerant
- Choosing the right shipping and delivery options
Someone who knows from first-hand experience is Phillip Ashley Rix, owner of Phillip Ashley Chocolates and a FedEx Small Business Grant finalist. His customers expect his gourmet chocolates to look perfect when they arrive at their doorsteps. But to create that flawless customer experience, Phillip evolved his packaging as he learned everything he could about packaging and shipping perishables.
Phillip says one key to the right packaging for perishables is choosing the right gauge of corrugated cardboard as the outer packaging to protect his delicate products. Corrugated cardboard with a one-inch wall thickness provides the best protection for his chocolates, without adding too much weight. To fully seal the outer packaging and ensure smooth shipping, he makes sure the box is taped evenly across all flaps with a pressure-sensitive plastic tape.
It’s all about the presentation. Handcrafted designer chocolates created by Phillip Ashley Chocolates of Memphis, TN, have to be packaged just right to arrive in picture-perfect condition.
It’s always important to understand how weather can impact shipments. Phillip makes sure he insulates his packages to prevent warming of his chocolates throughout their journey. He finds that reflective materials such as radiant barrier films work best for him. Other common forms of insulation include expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam and rigid polyurethane.
To help keep his cool — and his chocolates cool, too — Phillip uses gel coolants that maintain a temperature from 32° F to 60° F. Another option is dry ice, which is typically used for frozen shipments. It’s important to note that dry ice is not intended for live seafood; instead, use gel coolants. And while wet ice has its drawbacks, including increased weight, potential leakage, and special packaging needs, it can also be an option for the right shipment.
Shipping and delivery
When it comes to shipping, Phillip offers a range of shipping services and options to meet the individual needs of his customers. When shipping across the country, he generally ships with FedEx Priority Overnight® unless he’s shipping large quantities for events like the Emmy Awards, when he’ll use FedEx First Overnight®.
Delivery options for customers are also important, and Phillip stresses that it's key to communicate available choices, including customized delivery options, during the ordering process and over-communicate with customers until the order arrives.
Whether you’re delivering chocolates to Chicago or cakes to California, you want to make sure your customers enjoy a fresh, festive experience. Take it from Phillip that every shipment can be picture-perfect with the right preparation, packaging, and shipment option from FedEx. And that truly is sweet!
A note from FedEx
At FedEx, we generally recommend that you ship perishables via FedEx Priority Overnight, FedEx First Overnight, FedEx Standard Overnight®, or FedEx 1Day® Freight, and package your products for a transit time of 30 hours.
We don’t recommend you use FedEx 2Day® or FedEx Express Saver® for shipping items that can spoil, but if you decide to do so, make sure to package your shipment for at least 12 hours more than the delivery commitment time.
Packaging perishables may have its distinct challenges, but it doesn’t have to be a headache. For additional information, visit our Packaging Help Hub in the FedEx Small Business Center and our FedEx Temp-Assure® page to view our portfolio of temperature-controlled solutions.