The logistics of shipping perishable items can be a delicate process. During shipping, the packages might encounter unfavorable temperatures or humidity, and many major shipping companies may not offer environmentally controlled shipping for express shipments. That’s not to say, however, that shipping meats, cheeses, and other products that can spoil is impossible. By using proper insulation and refrigerants during express transit, as well as making sure your shipping containers adhere to regulations, you can ensure that your products stay fresh on their way to your customer’s kitchen.
Insulation for Perishable Goods
Keeping your products insulated is a prime logistic concern for perishable product fulfilment. By making sure to use suitable insulation in your packaging, you can reduce the transfer of heat from outside of the container to prevent the contents from spoiling. For most perishable foodstuffs, you will want to use thick insulated foam containers. Some of the most effective insulating materials include expanded polystyrene foam, rigid polyurethane foam, or reflective materials. Expanded polystyrene foam is a tough, rigid foam made from beads of pre-expanded polystyrene. It is commonly used for disposable trays, plates, cups, and carryout packaging— in fact, you may know it best under the brand name Styrofoam. Rigid polyurethane foam is found inside the plastic or metal walls of many refrigerators and freezers, and is another insulating foam that is often used for shipping perishables.
Packaging Perishables with Refrigerants
Dry ice or gel coolants are often used in packaging perishable goods to ensure product fulfilment. Of these two options, gel coolants are usually considered the superior choice, especially for food items. Gel coolants can be frozen according to the guidelines provided by the manufacturer, then arranged around and on top of the perishable products inside the insulated container. Make sure to use enough coolant, and that any empty space within the package is filled with packing peanuts or other material so the product doesn’t slide around during transit. The insulated container packed with gel coolant and product can then be securely sealed in a corrugated cardboard box for safe and spoil-free shipping.
Keeping Perishables Frozen
Some perishable goods need to be frozen rather than refrigerated. This often requires the use of dry ice, which can pose a logistic problem for product fulfilment. There are regulations concerning air transport of dry ice, which is considered a hazardous material in this context because it can displace oxygen as it evaporates into carbon dioxide. It must be properly labeled for shipping by air, and never packed in an airtight container due to the danger of it rupturing from the gas pressure. It is possible to use wet ice (i.e. water ice) instead of dry ice, but this poses its own logistic problems because it can melt and leak.
Some Other General Packaging Concerns for Perishable Product Fulfilment
Along with insulation, refrigeration, and freezing concerns, you also want to package your perishable products securely so that the contents will not become displaced or deformed if the box is flipped over, rotated, or agitated during transit. Any perishables that could melt or thaw should be sealed inside of watertight plastic bags to prevent any fluids from leaking. Once your insulated foam container filled with product and dry ice or gel coolants is securely inside a corrugated cardboard shipping box, it should be tightly secured with at least three strips of adhesive tape. The shipping label should generally be on top of the largest surface, and should be marked as “perishable”.