How to Ship Food: Guidelines for Dry Food, Perishable Food, and More
A decade ago, shipping food was difficult, expensive, and in some cases, nearly impossible. These days, overnight shipping and dry ice allow for dry and perishable foods to be shipped all over the country. Check out our guide on how to ship food safely and efficiently.
Shipping Dry Food vs. Perishable Food
While you may think you know the difference between dry and perishable foods, it’s important to understand the way these terms are defined when it comes to how to ship food.
Dry foods are foods that are unlikely to spoil or expire during the normal mailing process. They should not emit any significant odors during shipment and should be carefully sealed to ensure they won’t leak. Examples of dry foods include coffee beans and grounds, pasta, and candy.
According to the USPS, perishable foods “can deteriorate in the mail and thereby lose value, create a health hazard, or cause an obnoxious odor, nuisance, or disturbance, under ordinary mailing conditions.” If the food is considered “mailable” by the USPS, the mailer sends it at their own risk and assumes all responsibility for value lost in shipment. Examples of perishable foods include meat and dairy products.
Selling & Shipping Dry Food
Luckily, dry food doesn’t require too much special care, making it a great business endeavor, even for small companies. Check out these tips for ensuring your food reaches your customer in one piece.
Storing Dry Food
One of the key parts of learning how to ship food is first figuring out how to store it. The main considerations for storing dry food are temperature and humidity. While there is a wide range of appropriate temperatures for dry food, most organizations suggest keeping your dry foods warehouse between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit for maximum shelf life. Warehouses should have easily-accessible thermometers and a plan for regularly checking warehouse temperatures.
You’ll also want to make sure there is adequate ventilation to prevent high humidities that can cause mold and bacteria to thrive. Fans, dehumidifiers, and proper insulation can all help to lower humidity in your storage space. Be sure to have a humidity meter to check your levels often.
Finally, you’ll need to keep an eye on the expiration date of your stock. While most dry foods are good for months, some may have shorter shelf lives. Have a plan in place for how long you can store your food before it needs to be donated or thrown away.
Packaging Dry Food
Dry food requires the least specialty packaging for shipping. Your exact packaging may vary based on the foods you are shipping, but typically, non-perishable foods can be shipped in a standard cardboard box with padding, like shredded paper or packing peanuts.
Depending on how fragile your food is, you may also need air bags or bubble wrap for additional padding. If your food needs to maintain a low humidity for freshness, you may also want to consider including silica packets or other desiccants to absorb excess moisture.
Shipping Dry Food
When deciding how to ship food, you’ll need to consult with your shipping carrier, as each carrier is different. Some carriers may ask you to declare if your package contains food, and some may even charge you extra. You’ll also need to make sure your shipping time is appropriate and will give the customer ample time to enjoy the product before it expires. When in doubt, over-communicate with your customers about the shipping process to ensure they feel confident about the safety measures in place.
Selling & Shipping Perishable Food
Perishable food is a bit trickier to store and ship than dry food. But, with a few added precautions, it can be a very lucrative market to enter.
Storing Perishable & Frozen Food
Much like with dry food, temperature and humidity are the two key elements to safe perishable food storage. Refrigerated foods must be stored at or under 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Frozen foods must be stored at or under 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Some refrigerated and chilled foods may also be stored frozen to extend their shelf lives further.
Make sure all warehouses have thermometers and humidity meters in easily-visible locations. Employees should also be specially trained to work with perishable foods and take frequent readings.
You’ll need to keep a much closer eye on expiration dates than with dry foods. Most food warehouses use the FIFO inventory method to ensure that stock turns over quickly before expiring.
Packaging Perishable & Frozen Food
Packaging perishable food properly is essential. Refrigerated foods must be securely sealed and packaged with ice packs. Most shipping carriers suggest double wrapping items and using insulated cardboard boxes for extra protection against melting ice and other liquids. The outside of your shipping box should also be marked so that shippers and consumers know it is perishable and must be kept refrigerated.
Frozen foods require a bit more specialized attention, because they must be packed with dry ice. Employees should wear gloves and goggles when handling dry ice since it can cause burns to the skin. Dry ice should also be clearly labelled so that consumers can remove and dispose of it safely and avoid direct skin contact. The dry ice also should not come in direct contact with any of the food.
Shipping Perishable & Frozen Food
When planning how to ship food that is refrigerated or frozen, you’ll need to take additional care to ensure it doesn’t spoil. The outside of the shipping box must be labelled to indicate that it contains frozen foods and dry ice. Consult with your shipping provider on their specific rules regarding the type and quantity of dry ice that they permit, as well as any other restrictions on shipping distance (many providers won’t ship perishable food internationally) or shipping class. Keeping your items cold means shipping them quickly, so you’ll likely have to pay more for a faster shipping class.