Interested in learning how to ship perishables? Perishables and temperature-sensitive items are any items that can decay or deteriorate over time, especially when exposed to varying environmental conditions with unstable temperatures. These items, though sensitive, still need to get to where they’re going, and PAC Worldwide has everything you need to ship them with safety and efficiency. Read along to learn how to keep your shipments thermally stable for all to enjoy!
Step 1 – Plan Ahead
When shipping items with the potential to perish, planning and preparation is key. Be sure to know ahead of time how your package will be received and consider when would be the best time to ship it.
TIP: We recommend expedited overnight shipping, as the cooler nighttime temperatures will help your perishables keep, and the quicker delivery service means your temperature-sensitive package will spend less time on the road.
Remember to consider anything that might delay your shipment and plan accordingly. Ask yourself, will my package arrive on a weekday or during the weekend? Will someone be there to receive it? Will the recipient have enough room to store the perishables once they arrive?
TIP: Along with utilizing overnight shipping, ship items earlier in the week to ensure they’ll be received upon arrival. We also recommend letting your recipient know that you’ve shipped their perishables and when they’ll likely arrive. That way, they can plan accordingly!
Step 2 – Different Packing Needs
Perishables include foods such as meat, dairy products, fruits and vegetables. Because these items come in all shapes and sizes, and require different accommodations, it is vital to pack and store them accordingly!
Depending on the type of perishable you’re shipping, use the following guide to determine what best suits your needs.
- Perishable Liquids: Nobody wants leakage, so pack any and all liquids in containers with airtight seals.
- Cakes and Fragile Foods: In order to avoid your food getting crushed, sturdy containers are a must. Pack these tightly and make sure to fill in any extra space with void fill and separators to avoid jostling.
- Fruits/Frozen Items/Pastries: You want your items to arrive in pristine condition, so we recommend plastic wrapping each of these to ensure freshness during transit.
- Meat: Before you get started, consider questions such as the following, as they’ll help determine the optimal shipping solution:
- How much meat will I ship?
- Will I ship my meat fresh or frozen?
- Will I use one or two-day shipping?
The best way to maintain proper temperature integrity is to use durable, insulated packaging. These types of packaging come in many forms, but shippable cold boxes are usually the go-to solution.
Cold shipping containers are boxes that are often lined with polyurethane foam or polystyrene. These materials are lightweight and keep temperatures cooler for long periods of time. Often, these coolers are premade and come in various sizes for shipping needs. Unfortunately, these forms of insulation can be bulky, leaving less room for your items and taking up more space in your warehouse and in shipping vehicles.
In contrast, the CoolPAC™ liners from PAC Worldwide are made from a lightweight, yet moisture resistant construction that allows for more space than the average shipping cooler; resulting in less waste over time. And they’re easy to use: simply place one in your packaging box, fill it with your shipment, and seal it!
Quick Tip: Because containers and box liners maintain temperatures by minimizing heat transfer from outside a package, it’s important to make sure items are cold when placing them in your packaging.
Step 3 – Temperature Control
Once your perishables are optimally contained, your packaging solutions will determine the condition in which they’ll arrive. Whether sending a steak, a batch of cookies, or a dozen apples from your own personal orchard, the goal should always be for items to arrive in the best possible condition.
TIP: When it comes to shipping these different types of perishables, food safety is our highest priority. Our line of CoolPAC box liners, mailers, and roll stock, provide the insulation to keep your food fresh.
Once you’ve selected an appropriately-sized insulated liner for your package, the next step is to use the proper refrigerant. These can be sweat-free ice packs, wet ice, or gel coolants for items that do not require freezing temperatures to keep from perishing.
For the most part, gel packs are the easiest solution for cold shipping. Because they freeze at a lower temperature than ice, they tend to last longer, usually about 24-36 hours (depending on how well insulated a package is).
When it comes to shipping fresh meats, for instance, it’s best to use cold gel packs instead of dry ice to have it keep in transit. Dry ice is colder, so it will slowly freeze your meat during the commute. If you don’t want your meat to freeze, gel packs work appropriately.
To ensure temperature control, it’s best to use more gel packs than are strictly necessary, but this could affect the shipping cost as they can weigh down your package significantly. On average, 1lb of gel packs for every 3lbs of perishables is optimal for shipment.
Cold gel packs are also easy to adjust and pack, keeping your items neat and dry. But if you’re shipping frozen food, dry ice is the way to go.
Relying on gel packs when shipping perishables and refrigerated items can sometimes be a risk, as many factors come into play during shipping that can compromise the integrity of an item. Often, it’s best to freeze your items and use dry ice as a method of refrigeration.
The amount of dry ice used for shipping depends on two main factors: 1) the amount and size of the item being shipped and 2) the amount of time it will spend in transit.
One- or two-day shipping?
Generally, any perishable or temperature sensitive item should not be in transit for more than a day, but same day and overnight shipping can get pricey. Because of this, it’s important to consider one- or two-day shipping, as it can make a big difference to the amount of dry ice used to keep your items fresh. Five to ten pounds of dry ice generally lasts about 24 hours, depending on the integrity of the insulated cooling package you’re using to ship.
WARNING: Be Careful When Working with Dry Ice – Dry ice doesn’t melt, it phases from a solid block to carbon dioxide gas without ever turning into a liquid. Because of this and its general freezing properties, dry ice is considered a hazardous material.
Dry Ice Quick Tips
- Dry Ice is considered a hazardous material if it’s being transported by air. Because dry ice releases carbon dioxide, it builds up pressure, so be sure to avoid air-tight containers when using it.
- If you do need to use dry ice, do not let it contact your skin while packing.
- Be sure to label your shipment accordingly.
- You will also need to inform your parcel service of the amount of dry ice in your package, so keep note of how much you’ve used in pounds.
Step 3 – Packing
Once you’ve carefully chosen and placed your refrigerants, items, and insulation, be sure to seal your package tightly to avoid any leaking. Try not to leave any empty space, to avoid items jostling around or getting crushed. Label your package carefully with the proper recipient and return address, and a “Keep Refrigerated” label if necessary.
Step 4 – Ready to Ship!
Be sure to expedite your shipment so that your items arrive in pristine condition. Overnight shipping works best in this scenario. Also, you want to ship earlier in the week, to avoid having your items stay in a carrier facility over a weekend. Let your recipient know they’re going to receive a package of frozen items, so they can make the proper accommodations upon arrival.