As the holiday season quickly approaches, many people wonder if they should and how they can safely ship food products. Small food manufacturing businesses that are looking to expand their market also question if mailing containers of their product is a financially affordable and viable option. While it can be successfully done, there are certain precautions one needs to take. Here is the basic information you need to successfully prepare and package perishable goods for shipment.
Packaging That Will Stay Cold
The first step to shipping perishables is to choose the right insulation. The best insulating material that is also lightweight is Styrofoam. You can use either a small insulated cooler or cut sheets of Styrofoam to fit snugly inside your cardboard box. The minimum thickness for both should be one and one-half inches.
Ice Packs Or Dry Ice?
Generally speaking, choose ice packs for refrigerated items and dry ice for items that will be shipped frozen.
Ice packs can either be reusable or just intended for one-time use. If you are shipping to yourself, such as meat you have hunted out-of-state, or to another family member, you may want to use reusable packs. Small business owners will want to choose inexpensive, one-time use only ice packs as they will not be getting them back from the customer.
Ice packs, sometimes called gel packs, typically need to be frozen before use. These packs are made primarily of water, with either silica gel or the chemical hydroxyethyl cellulose added. These additional components keep the ice pack from freezing solid, which makes them still somewhat flexible. This flexibility allows you to wrap the ice pack around your product.
An instant ice pack that becomes immediately cold due to a chemical reaction is also available. Water and ammonium nitrate are kept in separate chambers within the pack. Once the chamber wall is broken and the compound is mixed, an endothermic reaction develops, causing it to become cold. While these may be convenient in some circumstances, they are generally more expensive than a traditional ice pack.
Instead of melting like regular ice would, dry ice is a chemical compound that sublimates, which means it turns into a gas and evaporates. It is considered a hazardous material, which means it will require extra considerations, which vary by carrier. You will need to contact your preferred carrier to see what their labeling, weight, and other restrictions are. Dry ice vendors can provide more specific information on how many ice packs or pounds of dry ice you will need for your package size.
To avoid disappointment, consult with your carrier to see their exact requirements and recommended shipping time frames as well as price point before packing your mailing containers.