Whether those buying your product are meat-eaters or vegetarians, gluten-free, or dairy-free or they’ll try anything under the sun – we all have to eat. All food must make its way from farms and factories to the dinner table. We all know that this multi-step process is particular and sensitive. Shipping frozen and refrigerated food together can be a recipe for disaster if not done right. The technicalities involved in packaging, warehousing, and transporting these goods are specific and time–sensitive. Let’s look at the logistics of frozen and refrigerated shipping and see how your product ends up safely on dinner tables.
Shipping temperature-sensitive items? Check out our Temperature Shipping Guide for temperature suggestions?
The process of shipping food differs between truckload and less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments. Let’s look at how these two modes differ when it comes to shipping your frozen food.
When you work with a refrigerated LTL carrier, you likely know that they have specific days that they pick up, depending on the region. Other temperature-controlled products traveling within that region in the same temperature range will be on that truck.
The LTL carrier will pick up all these shipments within a specific window and deliver them the following week. Depending on the size of your business and the frequency of shipments, you may find it challenging to keep track of the various pick-up and delivery windows for specific carriers. Visibility of your shipment is imperative to ensure your product arrives safely to the store and in peak condition.
Large shipments of dairy, frozen meats, boxes of bananas, lettuce and watermelons, cans of soup, ketchup, you name it, can be shipped via truckload from distributors to grocery stores. Truckloads full of items leaving one location and heading to the same destination with the exact temperature requirements can be shipped together. However, if this isn’t the case for your product, remember to note this on your instructions for the carrier moving your freight.
Since these trucks typically have one origin, one destination, and one driver, there aren’t necessarily specific days of the week that these are picked up. However, receivers may have specific days for delivery. Ensure your product arrives in peak condition by coordinating the pick-up and delivery times appropriately so food does not spoil.
The typical grocery store shipments are pretty cut and dry with how goods arrive at the loading docks. The waters get muddied up when it comes to services designed to help busy people get groceries without ever stepping foot into a store.
Consumers can buy everything else online, so why not food? Grocery delivery services like Peapod, Walmart Grocery Delivery, Instacart, Freshdirect, and Amazon Fresh have turned e-commerce into a giant food pantry for busy people. In a five-minute website visit, people can add their groceries to a virtual cart and have the goods arrive on their front step the following day.
While grocery deliveries are incredibly convenient and competitive price–wise for the average consumer, it’s a rather complicated process with a small profit margin for shippers.
These last-mile grocery shipments are so tricky because of the precise instructions and temperatures for the items within a single shipment. Companies have a window of around 20 hours to get groceries from the warehouse to a customer’s fridge. Any moment that the temperature dips below the requirement could zap away the shelf life of your product.
There’s also difficulty with grocery delivery because certain products cannot be shipped with others. Some produce items can’t be packaged in the same bag as others. Refrigerated items such as milk and cheese shouldn’t reach the temperatures that frozen microwavable meals demand and vice versa.
Some of these grocery delivery services have refrigerated trucks that carry the groceries from house to house, while others do the temperature control within the grocery totes, using insulated boxes, large ice packs, or dry ice.
Drivers who deliver these shipments must be more conscious about delivery windows to ensure that each food stays exactly how it is supposed to be, so the integrity remains when the bags make their way from the front step into the kitchens of consumers worldwide.
Meal Service Delivery Kits from providers like HelloFresh, Blue Apron, Green Chef, Sun Basket, and Plated are handled a little differently from grocery delivery service.
Shoppers who want pre-portioned ingredients to prepare two or three meals a week for their family will sign up for these services. Ultimately, the providers, like HelloFresh, will have a preselected menu for the week.
In this case, the providers are the ones deciding what produce, grain, dairy, and meat can be packaged together. These deliveries arrive at customers’ homes in insulated cardboard boxes. Meats are typically at the bottom of the box covered by large ice packs, with produce and dry items packaged on top.
These deliveries are a little less complicated and don’t require immediate attention from the customer to stay fresh. While there are instructions to unpack in the fridge as soon as possible, food can stay cold with gel ice packs if customers are not home at the time of delivery. Typically, these items are kept at refrigerated temperatures and don’t fall into the realm of frozen food shipping. Proper packaging during this time helps maintain the integrity of your product.
Multiple carriers still come into play to get food delivered from the meal service distribution centers to the doorsteps of customers, many times parcel companies like UPS and FedEx complete the last leg of delivery. These carriers need to have the knowledge and expertise of shipping frozen and refrigerated food. This will ensure that the meal kits are delivered properly and are safe for the customer to eat.
Subscription boxes have become a major trend in the food industry. Unlike the full grocery delivery services, these boxes differ as they often only offer a specific type of commodity. Examples of food subscription boxes are Butcherbox, Misfits Market, Jeni’s Pint Club, Carnivore Club, and Wine Down.
These categorized subscription boxes are even less complicated to package and deliver than the Meal Service Delivery kits. Since all items are in the same category and require similar packaging and temperature control, there is no need to make sure certain items are at the bottom with more sensitive items at the top of the box.
All items are packaged like the meal kits inside an insulated cardboard box covered by large ice packs and delivered the same way. Companies like ButcherBox can warehouse and deliver their boxes in one to two days with services like Direct-to-Consumer through our parent company, Burris Logistics.
Even with changing trends in the way food and groceries make their way into consumers’ cabinets and refrigerators, your food product still has to travel from distribution centers, warehouses, and farms around the world.
Whether you have a full truckload of refrigerated or frozen food to ship or just a few pallets, you can work with a third-party logistics (3PL) company to help coordinate your shipments.
Whether you’re shipping multiple trailer loads of food to grocery stores across the country, or you’re just starting to ship several pallets of your bakery goods to markets, Trinity Logistics is uniquely qualified to help you find solutions for your cold chain specific needs.
Trinity arranges the shipment of food, produce, and frozen meat and seafood on a regular basis. We work with a vast array of carriers with reefer and frozen food equipment at the ready. With innovative technology and Account Management expertise, frozen food shipping arrangement has become a specialty of Trinity.
Want to learn how Trinity can arrange your refrigerated shipments?
Connect with us today by submitting a quote request.
Originally published July 7th, 2017 By Brittany Siegel. Updated by Victoria Dalton.
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