How to Ship Alcohol | 9 Factors of Alcohol Shipping Tips

Bradley Johnson
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    If you’re wondering, “Can I sell alcohol online?” The answer is yes. Online alcohol sales are a growing market and they have quadrupled from 2019 to 2021 and are expected to continue increasing into 2022. It's a great time to learn how to ship wine.

    As long as you have the appropriate licenses, products consumers love to buy, and the means to ship them, you’re in good shape. The first step is to create a storefront with BlueCart eCommerce or another eCommerce website builder.

    Next, it’s time to master shipping and handling, so you aren’t scrambling to figure it out after your first few sales. We pulled together the essential steps on how to ship alcohol so you can apply them right away. 

    Keep reading for tips on how to legally and effectively mail alcohol from point A to point B.

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    How to Pack Alcohol for Shipping

    Due to bottle shock in wine, alcohol requires a more advanced packaging approach than other products. You want to prevent oxidized wine at all costs, especially when sending wine long distances. Here is how to pack alcohol for shipping, whether you’re sending one bottle of wine or a case of beer: 

    • Use heavy-duty eCommerce packaging. Alcoholic containers are heavy, so a normal cardboard box won’t cut it. In most cases, you need an insulated packaging layer with heavy-duty cardboard on the outside. You can use boxes that have styrofoam cases inside or insert a polystyrene container into a double-walled box. If you aren’t sure what size box to use, learn how to measure a box for shipping first.
    • Wrap each bottle or case securely. Whether you’re sending a six-pack of beer from an online marketplace or one specialty wine bottle, your packaging needs to prevent breakage. Use foam sheets, packing paper, or styrofoam layers to nestle beverages in the box. When it comes to alcohol, the less empty space in packaging, the better. This prevents bottles from shifting, packaging from getting damaged, or a box breaking open. 
    • Have bubble wrap on hand. Bubble wrap is optional depending on the type of product you’re shipping, but it never hurts to have it ready. It’s useful for padding the sides of boxes, wrapping beer cans, and taping to a case of wine or liquor. Make sure the bubble wrap doesn’t prevent the box from being closed. 
    • Double tape the bottom and top of your box. It’s important to firmly seal boxes with alcoholic containers because of the weight and contents. Double taping box flaps is the easiest way to do this. If this isn’t already included in picking and packing for your warehouse management process flow, add this step today.
    • Affix labels to the tops of boxes. It may be tempting to put shipping labels on the sides of boxes, but you should always put them on top. This way, even if your box gets shuffled around or tipped on its side, delivery drivers will still know which way is up. 
    • Avoid extreme temperatures whenever possible. In some cases, you can’t avoid shipping in the middle of winter or the peak of summer. Whenever you’re able, shipping packages in milder weather is safer. It mitigates the likelihood any container will freeze or burst open.

    If it’s your first time standardizing a packaging process for alcoholic beverages, write down your version of the steps above. Then print it out, laminate it, and give it to your warehousing staff. This will save time and effort, especially during busy seasons.

    If your shipping demands are growing and you need a solution to match, look no further than BlueCart. Our built-in shipping tools consolidate our customers’ buying power to negotiate optimal rates from 60+ shipping companies. Determine shipping costs by weight, print a packing slip and labels with a shipping label printer, track shipments and returns, with a shipping cost estimator.

    How to Ship Alcohol UPS

    If UPS is your go-to shipping provider, good news--you can ship alcohol with them as long as you meet their conditions. Keep reading for essential info on how to ship alcohol UPS, from legal requirements to packing up the goods. 

    Licensing Requirements

    UPS only ships alcoholic beverages from licensed commercial entities. This means you must be a government-approved business that manufactures, distributes, or retails alcohol for UPS to ship it.

    UPS requires wine sellers to sign a shipment contract with them. You may be asked to adhere to additional regulations depending on what state you’re shipping to, as state alcohol laws vary.

    UPS has similar legal requirements for other alcoholic beverages. As long as you're a licensed distributor or seller, you may ship direct to consumer or to another licensed business. Intrastate and interstate shipping options are also available. 

    The above information holds true for beer breweries, as well. If you’re a lawful manufacturer or dealer, you simply need to show proof of licensing and you should be prepared to ship. 

    Research the spirits shipping laws of any state you plan to do business in so you can be prepared. Some states require a valid shipping license to ship across state lines; others have more relaxed laws like only needing to see your eCommerce business license. Remember that you are responsible for how you conduct business, whether in or out of your home state.

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    UPS Best Practices for Alcohol Shipping

    UPS has specific packaging requirements for mailing alcohol to retailers or consumers. They accept the following materials for inner packaging:

    • Molded polystyrene foam
    • Corrugated cardboard
    • Molded fiber trays

    Alcoholic beverage containers must be situated in the center of the packaging. You can use any sufficiently dense and firm material to pad the space between the beverage(s) and the walls of the box. Corrugated cardboard is required for the outer layer of your box.

    How to Ship Alcohol FedEx

    Shipping alcohol via FedEx is another great option, especially if long-distance or international customers purchase from you. FedEx’s air fleet is extensive and is part of how they’re able to deliver over 3 billion packages every year. 

    There are two components to be aware of when learning how to ship alcohol FedEx: legal requirements and shipping recommendations. Continue reading for details on both. 

    Legal Requirements

    FedEx requires alcohol companies to sign an Alcohol Shipping Agreement with the company before doing business. Not only does this help FedEx track which businesses are selling alcohol, it protects both parties from infractions. 

    Once you’ve signed the shipping agreement, you can ship goods one of four ways. Those four ways are licensee-to-consumer (internationally and domestically), or licensee-to-licensee (internationally and domestically).

    FedEx also requires all international alcohol shipments to be sent Express. Include this factor in your pricing structure if you have several international customers.

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    FedEx Alcohol Shipping Best Practices

    Similarly to UPS, FedEx makes specific packaging requests of businesses shipping alcohol. Here’s what to keep in mind: 

    • Use polystyrene on the inside and cardboard on the outside. FedEx asks that spirits be shipped with these materials to be transported and delivered safely. It also mitigates temperature fluctuations, minimizes package shifting, and prevents spillage.
    • Avoid packing peanuts, packing paper, and cardboard partitions. Alcoholic beverages need specific kinds of packaging to prevent box damage. Cardboard partitions and packing peanuts don’t keep beverage containers firmly situated enough, and packing paper can easily become unfurled. 
    • Use directional arrows wisely. Directional arrow stickers are often added to fragile or directionally sensitive packages, but they can’t always be honored by shipping carriers and 3PL companies. Instead, it’s best to put your shipping label on the top of the box, so truck drivers know which way is up if they’re unable to find other stickers.
    • Reinforce your package with tape. Since a damaged beverage box can get messy fast, it never hurts to have extra layers of tape. After your box is sealed, put another layer on the bottom and top flaps, and double-check that the tape holds well. 

    How to Ship Alcohol to a Friend

    Are you curious about how to ship alcohol to a friend? It’s doable as long as you follow all spirits shipping regulations. Here are the basics of sending a drink to your friend: 

    • Familiarize yourself with state laws. Because alcohol is an age-restricted substance, it’s more heavily regulated than most products. Your shipment’s packaging, delivery, and destination details should conform to the laws of your state and that of your recipient. 
    • Choose a carrier from popular eCommerce shipping companies. FedEx and UPS both offer different advantages depending on your needs. UPS is great for ground shipping and FedEx has advantages for international and expedited shipping. You can’t ship alcohol via USPS because they expressly prohibit it in their policies.
    • Package it well. Any box containing an alcoholic beverage should be packaged and sealed tightly. After putting the beverage in a polystyrene foam container, you can line your cardboard box with plastic film. This prevents the cardboard from liquid damage in the unlikely event of spillage. Double-check that everything fits well and that the box doesn’t have too much empty space. Double seal the box with tape and you can ship with confidence. 

    These Alcohol Shipping Tips Can Be Your Spirit Guide

    Alcohol delivery fulfillment is no easy task. In addition to getting the product packaged nicely and delivered on time, you have to be mindful of state laws to prevent legal troubles.

    Use these shipping tips and strategies to send alcohol safely, quickly, and legally. They are the bedrock of any successful eCommerce alcohol company, so they can be used whether you’re just starting an eCommerce business or need to optimize existing processes. 

    Frequently Asked Questions About How to Ship Alcohol

    Do you ever ask yourself: "how do i ship alcohol?" Shipping alcohol is no laughing matter, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be mystifying, either. If you’re ready to get your online alcoholic beverage business up and running, shipping knowledge is a must. Here are some frequently asked questions and our answers about how to ship alcohol: 

    How Can You Ship Alcohol?

    You can ship alcohol through FedEx if you're approved as an alcoholic beverage seller and also comply with their regulations.

    What's the Process for Shipping Alcohol Across State Lines?

    Shipping alcohol across state lines is possible through FedEx if you comply with the regulations and are a pre-approved alcohol beverage seller.

    Can I Ship Alcohol Via FedEx?

    Yes, you can ship alcohol with FedEx. As long as you’re a pre-approved alcoholic beverage seller and comply with their regulations, you’re good to go. 

    FedEx requests that alcohol shippers use certain types of packaging, which they outline on their website. They also offer specific guidelines for wine in their Wine Packaging Guide. 

    Can You Ship Alcohol Via USPS?

    No, you can’t ship alcohol via USPS. It’s their official policy not to ship any alcoholic beverages, both domestically and internationally. 

    The only kinds of products you can ship via USPS with alcohol in them are cooking wine, common cold remedies, and mouthwash. The alcoholic content of these products is innocuous, isn’t a substitute for real alcoholic drinks, and is unlikely to be abused by minors.

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    Can You Ship Alcohol Via UPS As a Gift?

    No, you can’t ship alcohol via UPS as a gift. UPS requires all alcohol-related businesses to sign a contract verifying their lawfulness as a company before shipping. Federal and state laws also mandate that only licensed businesses ship alcohol, too, so in broad terms, it’s a no-go.

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