How to ship food and perishable products during the COVID-19 outbreak

As you might be aware, we are going through difficult times due to the outbreak. Due to this, more and more people choose wisely to sit home and order food online, instead of going to the store themselves. That’s great news, since more people staying home is better and it can slow down the spread of the virus.


However, how do you actually ship food and perishable products? Especially nowadays, with all of the delays caused by the outbreak. It’s difficult, sure, but it’s entirely possible. Doing it correctly and properly could help boost your business a lot.

The ecommerce market for food and grocery delivery continues to grow every day. However, finding ways to affordably and safely ship perishable items to consumers can be difficult at times. Failing to do so not only causes chargebacks, but it can also be a health risk with expensive ramifications.

Your business depends on goods arriving as fresh as the day they were caught or created. Here’s a list of guidelines you should follow in order to have your goods shipped without issues:

First of all – safety

Note that when you’re shipping perishable food, there are more challenges than you’d might think. First of all you have things such as extreme temperature or humidity. But even if these are under control, the products could still go bad or spoil in a few days, even in ideal conditions.

The key to keeping food shipments fresh are insulation and refrigeration. Keeping heat and moisture out and cool temperatures in is your goal.

Dry ice can prevent food from going bad

Dry ice allows you to ship frozen items or items that need to stay very cold. But what is it? Well, the not-so-scientific explanation is that dry ice is carbon dioxide in a solid form.

This works because dry ice converts directly into gas from its solid state. Sounds good, but what’s the downside? As you might expect, despite this advantage of dry ice, it is expensive and not allowed by all carriers.

While dry ice is necessary to ship frozen foods, there are very important things to consider in handling:

  • It’s hazardous for air travel and must be carefully labeled to comply with transportation carrier regulations
  • Though it’s non-toxic, it releases CO2 gas as it warms. This causes a risk to health in enclosed or non-ventilated spaces
  • It can burn exposed skin and cause injury, and therefore must be handled with gloves and goggles
  • You are not allowed to use dry ice when shipping live animals such as lobsters or other shellfish
  • Requires you to select the shipping option “Contains dry ice” for FedEx and UPS. Don’t forget to tick that box!

Any other options?

In case you do not want to use dry ice, you have a few other options available to you. One that we would recommend is using cold packs. These are reusable inserts that are used to ship refrigerated perishable and semi-perishable food. There are many options for cold packs that are selected based on the type of and amount of food you’re shipping or the temperature it’s regulated at.

shipping food

As a general rule, pliable gel cold packs are useful for irregular spaces since they can be reshaped. Plastic or foam cold packs are more suitable for well-defined surfaces. When planning to use ice packs or freezer packs, test out the size and number of packs your particular product needs to arrive at the locations your service covers.

Any cheaper options?

The least expensive way to transport food products is in flexible plastic bags. Depending on how it’s packaged, this is also the method that’s most resilient to impact. While other packaging materials can become dented or crushed on their corners, plastic bags can be packed and secured in a shipping box and absorb shock evenly.

Keep in mind that this method is most effective for solid food items. We would also recommend that you consider looking into biodegradable plastics or more eco-friendly options.

So how does it work?

In order to ship perishable goods, express shipping is likely your best bet. Express shipping may feel out of reach for many small to medium sized businesses, but there are some tips you can use to make it a reality. With a good fulfillment process, same-day shipping can be a practical option for customers that order by a certain time of day.

Even though you did all you could, sometimes products might still become bad before they arrive at their destination. But don’t let this discourage you, it happens to everyone, even to the best businesses. It’s a small risk that you take once you decide to ship food and perishable products.

But despite this, we think that offering the option to ship food and perishable goods, especially during these dangerous times, is a very nice and helpful thing to do. Just think about the number of people stranded at home that you’re helping!

To sum up

No matter which route you choose, you will face a lot of challenges. From extreme humidity, temperature and delays, there are some things that are out of your control, unfortunately. But even if something bad happens to your products, make sure to let your customer know that you care about them, and send them the products again.

As a reminder, make sure you keep heat and moisture out and cool temperatures in when shipping. Ensuring your customers receive their package quickly and in good condition can boost your brand credibility and create loyal customers.