How to Ship Frozen Food: The Best Tips and Methods

Bradley Johnson
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    Running a business that sells food and drinks can be full of excitement and reward. Whether you’re learning how to sell food from home or split your time between different types of marketplaces, you can reach interested buyers in several ways. 

    Selling food in person is one thing, but delivering it without shipping issues it is a whole different challenge. Shipping frozen food is particularly demanding because you need to ensure products arrive completely unspoiled. With this in mind, expedited shipping will probably be the best shipping option.

    If you don’t have the right eCommerce packaging to support your goods, they can spoil quickly. Customers may assume you didn’t put any effort in, and a damaged reputation will both hurt your brand and lose you sales. 

    So, how can you prevent product spoilage during transit? Keep reading to learn how to ship frozen food.

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    How Much Does It Cost to Ship Frozen Food?

    The average cost of shipping frozen food can range anywhere from $30 to $150. Since the contents, dimensions, and weight of each package differs, you won’t know exact costs of shipping frozen food ahead of time. eCommerce shipping companies’ different services and features also dictate price variance, like shipping speed and optional insurance.

    Package weight is a primary factor in food shipping costs, as advanced packaging is required to keep frozen food intact. This is why it’s useful to know how to calculate shipping costs by weight.

    By standardizing the weights of your products, you can more accurately predict shipping costs per unit. Creating a weight chart of your top-selling products also simplifies your monthly eCommerce accounting

    Changing even one type of packaging material can reduce weight and save you thousands across the course of a year. Whether you’re selling through a wholesale marketplace, BlueCart eCommerce, or with the help of an eCommerce website builder, your buyers will appreciate the savings you pass on to them.

    How to Ship Frozen Food Cheaply

    Given the attention to detail necessary to ship frozen items, it’s no wonder business owners want ways to cut costs. Customers expect orders to show up quickly and cheaply, so regular expense reduction should definitely be on your priority list.

    Even if you’re only shipping a few dozen items per month, expenses can cut into your profit if you aren’t addressing it. Here are seven universal strategies for shipping frozen food cheaply: 

    • Find a carrier that specializes in cold freight. Most shipping companies have capable fleets; fewer services understand the needs of temperature-sensitive products. Cold freight carriers have trucks with air conditioning and train their employees to monitor the status of items throughout the delivery process. Working with an experienced carrier is the difference between your products risking spoilage and arriving in mint condition. 
    • Always use some kind of insulated container. The art and science of shipping perishable food hinges on using quality insulated containers. You don’t need a massive box or a container full of gel packs, but your shipment should be prepared to resist warm temperatures. Start with a reasonably sized box or bag. Next, add some insulated padding like air pillows or aluminum box liners. Continue adding until your product is cushioned on all sides, thus minimizing cold temperature losses. 
    • Use dry ice. Dry ice is liquefied carbon dioxide, and it’s been used for decades to keep items cool for extended periods of time. Since it remains solid for so long at a low enough temperature, it helps other items stay cool. Companies who sell dry ice are well-accustomed to food businesses requesting it, so it’s easy to find if you plan to incorporate it into your operations. The dry ice shipping rule of thumb is about five pounds for every 24 hours in transit. 
    • Look for the best rates. Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few carriers you trust, compare their rates. Just because a carrier has cutting-edge capabilities doesn’t mean they’re the best fit for you. Ask them about any bulk shipping rates they have or first-time customer discounts. Also reduce your overall time spent on shipping by designating one or two times for carrier pickup. This allows your staff to prepare orders in batches, instead of constantly running back and forth between cold storage and the packing table. Since you’re sending out frozen items, make sure they’re not sitting out for minutes on end. But if you’re packing five similar items at once, retrieve them from the freezer and package them at the same time.
    • Buy packaging materials in bulk. The food industry is based on consumer preferences, like 2022 food trends, plus consistent demand. Ongoing demand means you need plenty of packaging supplies on hand. Save money and perfect your warehouse organization by getting packaging materials in bulk. This way you can shelve hundreds of packaging units at a time and retrieve them quickly. It will also lower your cost per unit sold. Even if this is a small amount, after several months it adds up. 
    • Optimize your packaging for each product. It’s no secret that shipping cold items can add up quickly. Take a look at your products and ask yourself if you’re optimizing product packaging. Are you placing small products in large containers, solely to be on the safe side? You’re paying more in shipping, which cuts into your profits. Look at insulated styrofoam containers that suit specific items and build this into your picking and packing workflow. 
    • Ship in bulk whenever possible. You can also consider a separate refrigerated room that boxes can sit in before the pickup time arrives. Test these methodologies and see what works for your business. 
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    If you’re looking for additional ways to reduce shipping costs, BlueCart has you covered. Our integrated shipping tools combine our customers’ buying power to negotiate the best possible rates from over 60 shipping companies. Calculate costs, create labels, print labels with a shipping label printer, track shipments, and more. Book a demo to see what our platform can do for you.

    How to Ship Frozen Food USPS

    If USPS is your food carrier of choice, there are a few factors to be aware of. USPS doesn’t offer refrigerated carrier services, so the degree to which your products are protected is entirely up to you. 

    Here are four useful tips on how to ship frozen food USPS: 

    • Use durable shipping materials. No matter what kind of frozen food you’re sending via USPS, it should be packaged accordingly. An insulated box, styrofoam casing, dry ice, and bubble wrap are all good insulating materials. Buy what’s within your budget while making sure the materials will keep temperatures low for the duration of the shipment. This point is particularly important if you run a subscription business.
    • Consider frozen gel packs. Investing in frozen gel packs will add a little to your expenses (quality ones run about $3.50-4 per pack). If you prefer these over dry ice or styrofoam, it’s a great alternative. Pack your frozen food as firmly as you can in its packing paper or sleeve, and then put the gel pack on top. This will minimize the amount of heat that gets trapped between the top of your product and the box flaps, thereby keeping the product colder longer. 
    • Look into dry ice. Frozen carbon dioxide, or dry ice, has been used in the food industry for many years. It remains solid at an extremely low temperature, and because of this it keeps surrounding items cold for extended periods of time. Dry ice should be placed in a plastic liner or vented bag, both to protect your hands when moving it and so the CO2 gas has room to escape.
    • Pack your items correctly and safely. Since USPS doesn’t offer cold freight or dry ice, the responsibility to prevent damage is squarely yours. USPS’ website details the requirements for using dry ice to ship frozen food, like no leakage, odors, or unsealed packages. You’ll also be held responsible for any damage to other customers’ products. Take the time to pack your products safely so you and your buyers have peace of mind. 

    Once all of these steps are complete, you can use the shipping cost estimator on USPS’ website. Walk through the onscreen prompts and print out your label to get the package on its way. 

    How to Ship Frozen Food FedEx

    Want to get your frozen food to your customers in style? FedEx is a great way to go. 

    FedEx offers some of the most competitive services for cold and frozen items. They even have multiple cold storage facilities where temperature-sensitive shipments can wait in the event of bad weather or unforeseen circumstances. 

    Here is a closer look at how to ship frozen food FedEx:

    • Browse their temperature-controlled options. Frozen food sellers rejoice; FedEx has several cold-friendly packaging solutions. They divide the options into four categories: room temperature shipping, cold shipping, frozen shipping, and deep frozen shipping. Browse the details in these categories, choose the one you’re interested in, and then click the “Talk to an Expert” button. FedEx will get to know your needs better and offer a custom quote. 
    • Take a look at their value-added services. FedEx offers optional quality management services like gel pack replenishment, real-time temperature monitoring, and top-level package security. Read more about these options and use their website’s contact form to reach out. A FedEx staff member can provide details on what products are best suited for these add-ons and the costs you can expect. 
    • Speak with a staff member if you have questions. If you aren’t sure which service to select or still have questions, simply reach out. A customer service representative will be happy to learn more about your business and recommend relevant solutions. 

    How to Ship Frozen Food Via UPS

    Along with USPS and FedEx, UPS is one of the biggest shipping and handling services in North America. They’re known primarily for their extensive fleets and competitive ground shipping rates. 

    If UPS is calling your name, they’re a skilled carrier to work with. Here’s what to know when learning how to ship frozen food UPS: 

    • Choose a shipping solution that matches your products. UPS offers numerous temperature-controlled shipping options. These include UPS Temperature True Plus, True Standard, True Saver, and True Dangerous Goods. True Saver offers basic temperature protection and package delivery, whereas True Dangerous Goods offers the most advanced level of product protection at all points of transit. Choose a service that fits the type of products you sell and how often you ship orders out. 
    • Consider their value-added services. Similar to FedEx, UPS has several value-added options for frozen items. These include air-conditioned vehicles, guidance during customs clearance, advanced packaging materials, additional security measures, and temporary storage facilities with controlled environments. The services you choose depend on product packaging needs and how quickly you want items to arrive at customers’ delivery addresses. 
    • Take advantage of UPS’ temperature optimized packaging. UPS has their own line of packaging options specifically for cold and frozen items. It starts with Med Eco and goes up to Med 500, with each option offering progressively greater protection from the elements. UPS doesn’t require customers to buy this packaging if you’re shipping frozen food, but it doesn’t hurt if you want to give your customers the best. 
    • Contact UPS if you have additional questions. As always, specific scenarios and detailed questions can be worked out by contacting company staff. If a specific type of food must be kept in a narrow temperature range or you’re dealing with several kinds of products on a daily basis, their employees can help.
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    Frequently Asked Questions About How to Ship Frozen Food

    If you sell temperature-sensitive food, it’s a necessity to know how to ship it without spoiling. Frozen food is notorious for melting and going bad if you haven’t packaged it properly. 

    To give you a head start, we pulled together some commonly asked questions about how to ship frozen food. Read our answers now:

    How much does it cost to ship frozen food?

    For most industries and products, you can expect to pay between $30 and $150 for shipping frozen food packages. Your final frozen food shipping cost depends on how much you’re sending, its destination, package weight, and the shipping service you selected. 

    If you’re shipping frozen food in bulk containers, you’ll pay more in general, but less per unit or shipment. This is because bulk shipping is often discounted, which makes it easier to get large orders out at the same time. 

    Can I send frozen food through USPS?

    You can send frozen food via USPS, as long as your product is sufficiently packaged. USPS doesn’t offer any refrigerated packaging or transportation services, so your goods need to make it on their own. 

    In addition to frozen gel packs, dry ice, or ice bags, it’s smart to put your product(s) in a plastic overwrap bag. Not the grocery bag kind, but a double sealing, food-grade plastic bag. In the unlikely event of leakage, this prevents water from seeping into your package and destroying the box. 

    What is the best way to ship frozen food?

    There are several smart ways to ship frozen food, including in polystyrene containers, with padded aluminum box liners, and ventilated dry ice. You can use one of these methods that matches your products, or all of them if your goods require additional support. 

    Ultimately, the best way to ship frozen food depends on your products, how far the box will be traveling, and what your customers prefer. It doesn’t hurt to offer buyers add-ons of extra dry ice and packaging materials. Not only does this signal to customers that you care about them, it gives you peace of mind knowing products will arrive intact.

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    Ship, Ship, Ship It Away

    Shipping frozen food or learning how to ship alcohol to customers is a challenge. In many cases, business owners have learned how to ship temperature-sensitive items by learning what doesn’t work. 

    Successfully delivering frozen food requires thoughtfulness in packaging and an optimized warehouse management process flow. Make sure your warehousing environment is set up to make packing and shipping easy; otherwise, you’ll have more problems than solutions.

    Even if you’re learning how to do it for the first time, eCommerce shipping companies are happy to help you. By using the tips in this post and your preferred carrier, there’s nothing you can’t get to the right buyer at the right time. 

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