It’s officially autumn, and that means it’s apple season! But how to get your prized produce from point A to point B without bruises, cuts, or worse? Enter: Our guide to packaging and shipping produce.
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 (that’s where we come in!) and provide the proper insulation and cooling. Read on for a few tips and best practices for packaging and shipping produce like apples, pears, and oranges.
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.
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. You don’t want your apples scattering across the floor before they make it to their final destination!
Avoid bruised and banged up fruit by filling extra space in your package with our Produce Pads. Our Produce Pads are an ideal choice for packaging and shipping produce. We call it a 1-2-3 Step Solution, the best and most efficient solution for protecting your apples or other hardy fruits: The POWER PAK’R, Produce Pads, and Automatic Inserter.
Our POWER PAK’R is compact, efficient, and powerful. POWER PAK’R dispenses film at an incredible 120 feet per minute. Our Produce Pads are designed specifically to be the best protective solution available for apples and other similar produce products, preventing bruising and other signs of decay. The Automatic Inserter saves time and money by automating the the packaging process: no need for seasonal labor. It delivers 80k pads per month with no user intervention. That means, in a 36-week season, you could save up to $20k in labor costs alone.
These three tools together save space (small enough to keep inside your warehouse!), time, and money. Our apple and fruit film is FDA-approved, infinitely recyclable, and exceptionally lightweight (saving you money on shipping costs).
If there is extra space remaining in your package, box, or foam cooler, add some of our MINI PAK’R quilts or cushions to stabilize your produce.
Wrap tins and other food containers with ample MINI PAK’R quilts, cushions, or Produce Pads and stabilize them in the center of your shipping box at least 2 inches from the outer walls. Be sure to seal all seams of the box completely on top and bottom with pressure-sensitive packing tape.
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.
There are more options than you might think to protect your temperature sensitive food from the heat of the environment. TasteProfit provides a breakdown of potential container options for packaging and shipping your produce:
- Styrofoam Boxes: Come in standard sizes, and typically include an exterior cardboard box. They come in various thicknesses. The thicker the wall, the less dry ice or ice packs you’ll need, but the more expensive the box. Request samples from suppliers to test different sizes and thicknesses with your product.
- Styrofoam Cut Sheets: Also come in standard sizes or can be customized to fit any box. These can be a less expensive than the whole box, but may not be as effective at keeping your products cold.
- Insulated Liners: These look similar to emergency blankets, but with a bubble wrap “texture.” The biggest benefit with this option is that you can tightly wrap your product and then fill any extra space in your box with bubble wrap or other packaging.
- Air filled Insulation Liners: These come with a hand pump (for small volumes) and an air tank (for larger volumes) and uses the powerful thermal properties of air, which of course is free, making this option often more affordable.
- Insulated Pads: These combine the insulation effectiveness of Styrofoam with the reflectiveness of the insulated liners, all while providing a “greener” solution as these are made of recycled materials. This solution comes with a fitting cardboard box, or you can order your own boxes from various online suppliers.
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 and choose tape designed for shipping. 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, dairy products–and fruit. 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. The general rule of thumb is to use ice packs when shipping refrigerated items, and dry ice when you need to keep your product frozen.
- Ice Packs: Make sure to test the number and size your product needs inside whichever insulation-providing container you choose. Keep in mind there are also different kinds available, but to save money, you’ll probably only need the one-time use ice packs.
- Dry Ice: Keep in mind handling dry ice means handling a hazardous material, which means you’ll have a few extra considerations when labeling your package, and choosing your shipping partner. When using UPS, if you can stay under 5.5 lbs. of dry ice, you’ll avoid extra requirements when shipping by air. No matter how much you use, you’ll need to label the outside of the box showing that it contains Dry Ice.
Nobody wants to bite into a frozen apple, so we’re betting ice packs are your best bet for keeping your produce cold.
Choose a Speedy Delivery Option When Shipping Perishables
When you’re sending fresh or frozen food, Office Depot recommends shipping 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.
Shipping perishable foods promptly and with proper packaging can make all the difference between a happy customer who orders from you again or a bad review on social media that prevents potential customers from trying out your services in the future. Choose the right packing and insulation materials to keep cold foods cold and to keep your business thriving.
But it goes beyond packaging and insulation: who should deliver your apples, oranges, or pears to your customers?
For products that require guaranteed delivery in 1-2 days, contact both UPS and Fedex to find out what types of “incentive pricing” you’re able to get based on your current and projected volume. With UPS, you should be able to negotiate for at least 30% off retail prices without huge volumes. Never build your shipping cost and price model based on full retail prices, advises TasteProfit.
It’s also worth considering shipping speed: How many days will your product keep?
You may think you have to overnight your product to be safe, but remember that 2-day shipping is significantly less expensive and might be fast enough, especially when shipping hardy produce. Saving customers money on shipping means they’ll order more often. The shipping speed required will depend on shelf-life, and whether you need to keep your product refrigerated or frozen. The key question to ask is this: what is the slowest I can ship my product, while still ensuring safe arrival?
With UPS, you can ship within a large regional are a via UPS Ground in 1 day or 2 days, which will cost less than 1- or 2-day air delivery.
You might also consider only making shipping available to certain states, at least initially, as you build your volume. If you do, be sure to focus your online marketing on your target customers in this region and make sure your shipping policy is readily available on your website or online presence. Wondering how? We’ve got you covered!