Shipping frozen and cold foods without compromising on quality is quite tricky. The food items must be maintained well in transit to retain the freshness they were packed with when they reach the desired destination.
When the food is not properly packed to withstand extreme temperature changes, it will spoil or contaminate when the weather is too cold or hot. If you are an e-commerce retailer entering the time-sensitive frozen foods market, you need to be familiar with these challenges and the correct ways to address them to ensure no mishaps occur while shipping.
Key statistics to ponder:
- United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization reveals nearly one-third of the food produced every year, or approximately 1.3 billion tons of food worth $680 billion, gets either spoiled or lost.
- A recent study reveals the frozen food market share stood at $291.8 billion in 2019. It is expected to hit $404.8 billion by 2027, translating to a CAGR of 4.2% from 2020 to 2027.
Whether you are breaking into the direct-to-consumer market or shipping food to retailers, here’s everything you need to know about how to ship frozen food.
Challenges of Frozen Fulfillment
If you are an e-commerce business in the food and beverage industry, you understand that shipping any type of frozen or cold food has its share of challenges. These problems include:
All kinds of foods, from fruits and vegetables to meat and grains, are made up of about 70-90% water. Freezing foods creates ice crystals, and their shape or size can impact the texture, flavor, and ultimately the quality of the food.
Fluctuations in temperatures, especially those that go below the freezing point, can affect the size and shape of the ice crystals. When the temperature increases, some small ice crystals melt, while larger ice crystals form as the temperature decreases. These changes eventually damage the cellular structure of the food while reducing its quality. This is why there is a need to maintain the temperatures in frozen food during fulfillment.
Humidity, when combined with heat, presents a significant threat to frozen foods. High humidity may cause flavor and color changes if the food is improperly packaged. Exposing the food items to high humidity can also result in contamination and spoilage.
Food spoilage is another major challenge that e-commerce vendors face each day when shipping frozen foods. If the food is not packed correctly with ideal insulated boxes and subjected to proper refrigeration conditions, the food's chances of spoiling increase substantially.
Ideally, different products require different temperatures and humidity during transportation. Regulators such as OSHA also place several compliance requirements for cold storage, freezer food safety, and product freshness. Staying ahead to remain compliant requires massive planning, organization, and substantial resources.
For example, the traditional temperature-monitoring systems are 100% dependent on operator experience. This means that you will have to be onsite all the time to manage the whole system and make proper adjustments should temperatures or humidity fluctuate.
How to Ship Frozen Food
While frozen food fulfillment may seem daunting, there are four simple steps to follow to get on the right track.
1. Ensure Correct Packaging
The ideal packing materials are greatly determined by the type of food items you are shipping. Some of the perfect options for lightweight perishable packaging include:
- Styrofoam boxes
- Insulated packages
- Air-filled insulation liners
- Insulated pads
If you need heavier-duty packing options, you can opt for glass and insulated containers. Consider also whether adding additional packagings such as wrappings, watertight plastic bags, padding, and insulation will help you achieve an added layer of protection against temperature fluctuations.
2. Use Cold Storage Materials
Select the suitable cold storage materials depending on whether you are handling frozen or refrigerated perishables. The following are a few options when it comes to cold storage materials:
- Styrofoam: With Styrofoam, the thicker the packaging, the less coolant and ice you will need. However, the drawback to this option is that the heavier packaging will ultimately lead to high costs.
- Ice packs and coolants: Ice packs and gel coolants can be an optimal compromise between cost and space. Although ice packs and gel coolants are more affordable, they only work well in items that should be refrigerated but not frozen.
- Dry ice: If you need an option that keeps items frozen for more extended periods, use dry ice. That said, dry ice can increase costs and paperwork because your shipment could be treated as a hazardous material. To avoid these issues, keep the dry ice contents per package below the maximum allowable weight of 5.5 pounds.
3. Understand Carrier Requirements
Different carriers have different requirements for frozen shipping, and it is essential that you understand your carrier requirements before signing the dotted lines. When choosing an ideal carrier, keep in mind the item type, the destination, and how fast it needs to get there.
For perishable shipments, experts recommend you choose a carrier that offers a maximum transit duration of 30 hours. The trick is to use different types of carriers for the different shipping zones you are covering.
4. Fulfill Orders
The simplest way to ensure proper frozen food fulfillment is by partnering with a 3PL to fulfill orders. Fulfillment partners that specialize in frozen food fulfillment have the expertise and manpower needed to ensure safe, successful delivery of all food items. 3PLs utilize modern tools that automate the delivery process, including the verification of address types and tracking of fulfillment orders.
Streamline Frozen Order Fulfillment with Smart Warehousing
Perishable goods account for over 70% of all freight shipped across the United States. However, shipping perishables is always a high-stake business. The increasing consumer and regulatory demand for traceability, enhanced transparency, and freshness make frozen food shipment processes much more frustrating and complex to e-commerce retailers and carriers.
Here at Smart Warehousing, we offer industry-leading warehousing, fulfillment, and logistical solutions throughout the United States. Our team understands the critical steps to fulfill frozen food orders fast and efficiently and offers exceptional solutions that ensure your brand is always one step ahead of your customers' expectations. Contact us today to learn more.