Food, glorious food! It’s popular to both give and receive, which makes food big for business. Naturally, if your ecommerce store deals in edibles, there are some rules and regulations (and general best practices) you’ll want to keep in mind when shipping perishable items. Here’s a menu of what to watch for.
Specifics about food items
- Meat and meat products. As long as these items conform to USDA regulations, they’re OK to ship.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables. If you ship produce, be sure it’s in “dry” condition – meaning free of wetness or condensation – to prevent spoilage in transit.
- Cakes/Cookies: If you are shipping a cake, it’s always good to place it inside a tin container to protect the shape during transit. And if you are shipping cookies, consider placing wax paper in between layers to avoid ingredients such as chocolate from melting into the entire shipment.
- Insulate your shipment. Styrofoam boxes come in a variety of sizes and often include features like self-seal strips. Insulated liners let you tightly wrap products, while insulated pads provide cooling minus the extra materials.
- Stay small. Keeping your packaging compact helps you cost-wise when certain carriers, such as UPS and USPS, set prices based on dimensional weight vs. actual weight. Even a slightly smaller box can mean big savings for you, and your buyer.
- Keep cool. Commercially available gel-coolant ice packs are available in many sizes and thicknesses, come in one-time and multiple-use options, and are almost always easier to manage than ice. Dry ice adds an extra measure of climate control, but requires careful handling as well as specific shipping regulations (it is considered a hazardous material) depending on your carrier, plus handling and disposal instructions for your buyer. UPS offers some helpful tips on shipping with dry ice and gel packs here.
- Filler is your friend. Surround the containers holding food items with plenty of packing peanuts or other filler to keep them from touching each other, as well as to protect them in transit.
- Mark it. Be sure to clearly write or stamp “Perishable” on your package according to your carrier’s instructions.
- Rules vary. What might fly with UPS might not necessarily be OK with USPS or FedEx, so be sure to do your homework before getting ready to ship anything perishable.
- Your carrier matters. Investigate your options for 1- and 2-day shipping, paying close attention to guaranteed delivery. Consider, too, whether your food item and method of packing may lend itself to a longer, and therefore cheaper, shipping option.
- Price accordingly. Lay out the special handling required to get perishables to their destination safely, and your customers will likely be willing to pay extra for your care.
- Watch the weather. Shipping your perishable product in December will likely be different than shipping it in July due to the probability packages will spend long hours in hot trucks or doorsteps. Your website can outline how the time of year may affect your shipping methods and pricing.
- Request feedback. Stay in touch with your customers to find out the condition in which they received their perishable items. Their comments can help you set or adjust your shipping policies.