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Smart WarehousingAug 24, 2021 5:46:09 PM5 min read

Key Differences Between Perishable and Non-Perishable Shipping

While all consumable goods are held to high-quality standards during every stage of production, packaging, shipping, and storage, perishable goods are subject to even more stringent regulations and requirements than nonperishable consumable goods. 

Finding a third-party logistics partner that can consistently meet these standards is crucial to protecting your product quality and the brand reputation of your food and beverage company. According to a recent Industry Research report:

The Perishable Goods Transportation market revenue was 3526 Million USD in 2019, and will reach 5671 Million USD in 2025, with a CAGR of 8.24% during 2020-2025. It is an integral part of cold chain logistics and helps manage and control the process of the cold chain supply process.

As more and more 3PLs are competing within this evolving space, it's a better time than ever to shop around for a partner that can meet your organization's needs for all types of food and beverage products. Even marginal differences in costs and timing can have significant effects on your inventory management processes when your company is handling large order volumes.

Learn more about the differences between perishable and non-perishable shipping and how to find a third-party logistics service that can handle both options to streamline your fulfillment processes.

Perishable vs. Non-Perishable Food Items

Food and beverage items come in two broad categories: perishable items and non-perishable items. Consumable products are considered to be perishable if they can spoil, decay, or become unsafe quickly. These products are at risk of becoming inedible, or even actively unsafe, if they are compromised during transportation and storage. Perishable foods often have unique requirements, including:

  • Being stored and shipped within a narrow temperature range, such as refrigerated proteins or frozen foods
  • Requiring a completely sealed container
  • Needing speedy shipment because the food product can overripen or decay, such as raw fruits and vegetables

Improper storage or shipping conditions for perishable goods can ruin the products even if they're exposed to other contaminants or hazards. This can lead to distributors needing to throw away the products or, even worse, for consumers to purchase and eat dangerous perishables that make them ill.

Non-perishable goods, on the other hand, are slightly less fragile. The container may undergo stress, a delivery may be delayed, or a product may be stored at room temperature for extended periods of time, and the contents may still be entirely safe to consume.

Shipping Perishable Items

Perishable items present unique constraints in the shipping process. Everything from the timeline to the environmental conditions must be tightly controlled and recorded. 

This can introduce stress, additional administrative burdens, and, ultimately, costs to the process that non-perishable items don't present. Whether your business is introducing a new line of perishable goods or you want to optimize your existing supply chain processes for established perishable products, it's important to consider these three  factors:


As a general rule, shipping perishable goods is a more involved and more costly process. Keeping perishables fresh and in safe conditions requires a lot of resources, such as refrigeration, expedited timelines, specialized storage containers, and the sensors and systems necessary to guarantee that ideal or required conditions have been met. Let's take a closer look at some of these costs:

  • Chilled, refrigerated, and frozen goods: Perishables that require cool temperature settings introduce three primary costs — the refrigeration units themselves for use in trucks, cargo ships, and warehouses; insulation, such as styrofoam boxes, to keep direct-to-consumer deliveries in good condition while they're outside of refrigeration units; and the paper trail logistics management services and your food company must maintain for audits and regulatory checks.
  • Expedited shipping for fresh produce: Raw vegetables and fruit require rushed shipping timelines. While ideal storage conditions with controlled humidity, adequate airflow, and minimal sunlight are essential, these just forestall spoilage instead of eliminating it. Food companies shipping produce to retailers and directly to consumers need a guarantee of shipping timelines that are two days, next-day, or even shorter.

Each additional constraint or requirement adds another line item to your shipping costs. So it's important to look for 3PLs that specialize in these services so you receive both a cost-effective rate and a guarantee that the conditions for successfully shipping perishable goods will be met.

After all, working on returns for spoiled goods, losing customers, and handling potential issues of liability and failed safety standards are even more costly.

Fulfillment Efficiency

Efficiency isn't just an additional cost so you can off-load perishable goods before they spoil. It's an increasingly in-demand element for fulfilling retail and consumer orders. Consumers want access to a wide variety of goods from outside their region.

They also want goods in a wide range of formats, such as through meal-planning services, grocery deliveries straight to their door, and customizable meal kits.

Whether you need shipping solutions for bulk perishable goods or these personalized direct-to-consumer packages, you often have to choose the fastest option rather than the most cost-effective. But the fastest delivery methods can still run too long because you have to account for specialized packaging needs, wait for refrigerated trucks to be available, or face other inefficiencies.

By working with a reliable 3PL that has a national network, however, you can start to create efficient workflows that are just as fast as non-perishable supply chains (or faster): 3PLs with high volumes of orders and inventory moving through their systems can carve out extremely efficient transportation networks for two-day, next-day, and same-day delivery of perishable goods.

You can also find 3PLs with real-time software resources so you and your customers can track orders, forecast future inventory needs so there are no empty spots on store shelves, and anticipate potential shortages.

Cold Chain and Cool Chain Logistics

One element we've mentioned throughout this guide is regulations. The shipping and storage of perishable goods that need to remain cold or cool are tightly regulated. Companies face logistic complexities because they need to uphold high standards while continuously passing tests that prove they are working within those standards. 

This means having regular audits and inspections, records of devices that continuously monitor the temperatures goods are stored at, and more. A reliable 3PL will already have the systems in place to make sure you can verify that your cool and cold perishables always stay within the right temperature threshold from when they first receive them to when the goods are turned over to a retailer or consumer.

Partner with Smart Warehousing for Easy Perishable Shipping Management

Perishable goods are far more challenging to manage than non-perishable goods, but they don't have to be prohibitively complicated. At Smart Warehousing, our team has experience handling perishable and non-perishable food and beverage goods.

We've established efficient, cost-effective processes for storing and shipping goods in ideal conditions that will help your business grow. Contact us today to learn more about our capabilities.