Produce Shipping: How to Send Fresh Goods to Your Customers

Fresh box of produce delivered to customer

Logistics experts and carriers have spent decades trying to get perishable goods from one location to another while maintaining freshness. Today, temperature-controlled shipping has become common across many industries. But as common as this technology has become, many small business owners and independent farmers don't have a complete understanding of how temperature-controlled shipping works.

In this article, we'll explain how to send fresh goods to your customers using temperature-controlled shipping. We'll also explore the unique needs of different food and produce items to help you make the best choice for your goods. Select an option to head to the section that is most relevant to you:


How Temperature-Controlled Shipping Works: A Basic Overview

Temperature-controlled shipping ensures that a trailer and the goods within it are kept within a predetermined temperature range. This is often accomplished through a combination of three distinct elements: packaging, climate control systems, and coolants.

Here's a brief explanation of what each element is and how it helps to keep goods fresh for your customers.

  • Packaging — Insulated packaging can reduce or even eliminate the need for climate control systems in trailers. Many shippers pack products in polyurethane foam packaging, which is highly insulated and keeps exterior temperatures from affecting the goods within the package. Often, this type of packaging is used in conjunction with coolants to ensure that the goods inside stay cold.
  • Climate control systemsRefrigerated trucks provide temperature management through powerful climate control systems on the trailer. These trailers tend to have slightly less space for freight than those without climate control as the control system and the insulation of the trailer take up extra space, which is something to keep in mind while shipping FTL. This method of shipping reduces the need for bulky insulation in your packaging if the truck is headed directly to the destination. It is also especially useful for products that need to be kept within very specific temperature ranges that are difficult to meet using packaging and coolants alone.
  • Coolants — If your goods can be frozen without worry of damage, then coolants are an excellent solution. The most common type of coolants are gel packs that are frozen and then packed inside of the polyurethane foam containers that house your product. This coolant reduces the temperature inside the foam container and keeps your goods cold while in transit. When a product needs to remain thoroughly frozen, dry ice is an excellent solution. If you use dry ice as a coolant, make sure that it does not damage the product you are shipping, and ensure that your carrier is rated to transport hazardous materials.

Each of these methods can be used individually or in tandem to transport your products based on their unique needs.


Items That Require Temperature-Controlled Shipping and How to Ship Them

Much like there are numerous ways to accomplish temperature-controlled shipping, there are also many different products that require this service. We'll discuss some of the most common products that require temperature control during shipping and provide tips to help you save money and keep your products fresh and delicious.

Animal products

Animal products almost always require some form of temperature control. Some items, like eggs, require refrigeration in order to stay fresh. Others, like meat, may need to be delivered to customers frozen.

To best prepare for shipping animal products, make sure that your shipments are grouped together based on their specific temperature needs. You wouldn't want to ship eggs or cheese with meat that needs to be frozen, as freezing eggs and cheese could damage those products. To avoid issues, we suggest that you have a detailed conversation with your carrier to help you organize your shipments.

Produce

Many types of produce require refrigerated or temperature-controlled shipping to remain fresh. But there are just as many types that require no special treatment at all. You'll need to become well versed in the different types of produce and how they react to different temperatures. Here's a quick primer on a few different produce types and their specific needs.

  • Root vegetables — Most root vegetables such as potatoes and carrots require some level of temperature-controlled shipping. If the products are being shipped a very short distance (within the same state/same day shipping), then they may not require refrigeration. In general, you want to keep potatoes between 4°-12°C (39.2°-53.6°F) in order to maintain freshness.
  • Citrus — Citrus does not always demand temperature-controlled shipping, but the shelf life and freshness of citrus can be improved by using it. As with root vegetables, the degree of protection needed depends on the distance the product is being shipped and how long it will be exposed to the elements.
  • Squash — The primary driver of whether squash requires refrigeration is its harvest time. Winter squash such as gourds and pumpkins are hardier and can be transported without worry so long as they have been cured and the temperatures they experience are not excessively hot or cold. Summer squash like zucchini requires more care as they lack the hard outer shells that make winter squash so hardy. These products should be transported in trucks that maintain a temperature range of 41°–50°F.
  • Soft fruits — Soft fruits like tomatoes, plums and peaches should be transported at near freezing temperatures. This helps to keep the fruit firm and prevents it from proceeding too far down the ripening process before reaching shelves and home countertops.
  • Leafy greens — Spinach, kale, and other leafy greens are very delicate and highly perishable compared to most other vegetables. They need to be carefully handled during transport and should only be shipped at near freezing temperatures. It's important that the transport vehicle or packaging keeps the product at just above 32°F, but no lower, as freezing the product will also damage it.

Flowers

While flowers fall into the category of produce, they deserve their own section because of their extremely delicate nature. You'll want to make sure that flowers are carefully packed in well-sealed and insulated packaging. At the same time, you need to make sure that whatever coolant you are using is not too powerful as freezing flowers will destroy them, which could cause major losses on a large shipment.

As always, when working with delicate goods, it's best to consult your carrier beforehand so that they can adequately prepare for your particular needs.


Make Temperature Controlled Shipping Work for You!

Now that you understand how temperature-controlled shipping works and the basics about a variety of different temperature sensitive products, you're ready to start shipping!

Start your shipping process on the right note with a quote from Freightquote. Our handy quoting tool compiles quotes from dozens of carriers within our network to provide you with the best possible price on refrigerated and temperature-controlled freight. Using this tool, you'll be able to access the same shipping solutions that major companies use every day.

Have a question? Contact us to speak with a helpful representative about your unique needs.

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