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International Shipping

How to Ship Frozen and Cold Foods

Learn how to ship frozen food and what it costs with carriers like USPS, UPS & FedEx. Get tips on how to pack frozen food containers.
How to Ship Frozen and Cold Foods
Jules

By Jules

 

April 29, 2022

Key Points:

  • Some common challenges when shipping frozen foods include: extreme temperatures, humidity, and spoilage
  • Be sure to use proper shipping boxes and containers and avoid cutting corners when packaging your frozen foods
  • USPS, FedEx, and UPS® can all ship your frozen food items safely and affordably

Understanding how to ship frozen foods is a critical aspect of your online business involved in shipping various types of food. Whatever food you sell and ship, the food must get to the intended recipient in good condition while also being fresh and free of any potential contamination. Having your food show up in poor condition will undoubtedly cost your company customers and revenue.

Before diving too deep into selling and shipping food, you need to know some important tips for shipping frozen foods. This blog post offers a quick yet detailed look at ensuring your frozen foods are shipped without any major issues.

Table of Contents

Common Challenges of Shipping Frozen Foods

As many eCommerce entrepreneurs already know, shipping just about any type of frozen food or cold food comes with major challenges.

How to Ship Frozen Foods

Extreme temperatures

When the weather is very hot or cold, it greatly affects packed and frozen foods, especially if they’re not properly packed to withstand the extreme temperature. Since the weather can sometimes be unpredictable, consider using express courier services instead of standard shipping services to avoid spoilage.

Humidity

Humidity, alongside heat in general, is another major threat to frozen foods. It’s important to include gel packs and other coolant materials to avoid frozen food items from melting during transit.

Spoilage

Spoilage is another challenge that vendors of frozen foods face during shipping. When the food is not properly packed with insulated boxes and proper refrigeration, it greatly increases the chances of spoiled food before delivery to its intended recipient.

How to Pack Frozen Foods for Shipping

Before you get your frozen food in transit, it’s important to ensure that it's properly packed and refrigerated. Here are a few key packing tips for frozen and cold foods to keep in mind:

1.  Properly wrap frozen foods

First, you want to wrap your frozen food items with watertight plastic bags, especially for items prone to leaks if damage occurs during transit. You can also wrap the watertight plastic bags with bubble wrap for extra protection.

2. Choose an appropriate insulated box

You’ll want to include an insulated box for the frozen item and the shipping container. This reasoning is because you don’t want your frozen food item to move around in the shipping container during transit. Also, an insulated box for the frozen food item ensures that your frozen item remains cool when shipping.

3. Place the frozen item(s) into the shipping container

Now, place your frozen item packaged in its insulated container inside the shipment box. You’ll want to include any cushioning or coolant materials to ensure your frozen item remains cold in the next steps.

4. Include dry ice or gel packs inside the insulated box

Dry ice and gel packs are a must for shipping frozen food. Dry ice is better for items you want to keep frozen during transit (i.e., steak), while gel packs are for items you want to keep cool but unfrozen (i.e., baked goods).

Be sure to research any shipping restrictions with your chosen courier if you use dry ice for your frozen foods shipment. Dry ice is considered hazardous and requires shippers to follow certain guidelines when shipping with this packing material.

5. Seal the box and include the correct labeling and classification

Now, you can seal your shipping box after following the above steps for shipping frozen food. Ensure there are enough coolant packing materials surrounding your frozen item before sealing your shipping container.

Afterward, place any required labels on your shipping box (i.e., hazardous material sticker), and you’re on your way to ship frozen foods!

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Takeaway: Whether you’re planning on using frozen food shipping containers, bags, or anything else in between, always ensure that the packages are properly padded to avoid unnecessary shifting that might increase the chances of your goods getting damaged.

Shipping Frozen Food Best Practices

Understanding how to ship frozen foods through couriers without having them become compromised during the shipment is crucial for online merchants. There are several ways, in general, to work around these serious challenges, including:

Consider express courier services

Ground delivery services can take upwards of nearly ten business days to deliver a package depending on the delivery destination, which is why you’ll want to consider using an express courier service for shipping frozen food items.

Merchants opt for a standard delivery service run the risk of spoilage for their frozen food items – and unhappy customers. To ensure your frozen food item arrives fresh, consider using express delivery services like UPS Next Day Air®, FedEx First Overnight, or even USPS Priority Mail Express.

Use appropriate shipping boxes and containers

When shipping frozen food, it's best to use the following packaging to keep foods frozen during transit:

  • Foam insulating food shipping containers such as Styrofoam
  • Dry ice boxes
  • Cardboard boxes with insulated box liners to keep temperatures cold

It's best to choose a shipping container that is slightly bigger than your item, so there is enough room to add ice packs or dry ice to keep temperatures low during shipping.

Avoid cutting corners when packaging frozen food

Shipping frozen foods aren’t like shipping non-perishable food items because frozen items can spoil, while non-perishable food items don’t. This fact alone means that you need to use the proper packaging materials to avoid any damage or spoilage during transit. Consider using packaging materials such as the following:

  • Gel packs
  • Watertight plastic bags
  • Sturdy, corrugated cardboard boxes
  • Dry ice

If you’re not sure where to look for packaging supplies, ULINE provides various packaging materials for frozen food items.

Properly refrigerate frozen food shipments

Frozen food items require shippers to use frozen gel packs and other packing materials like bubble wrap to secure your shipment. When packing up your frozen food shipments, use an adequate amount of dry ice and frozen gel packs. With dry ice, always make sure there’s some ventilation in the box or container.

As a general rule of thumb, use one pound of gel pack for every three pounds of meat. Seafood should be double-bagged for extra protection from extreme weather temperatures. Watertight plastic should also be used in packaging goods prone to leaking.

Consider shipping insurance for frozen items

Shipping insurance protects merchants from lost, stolen or damaged packages. Most couriers only offer $100 of shipping insurance for express services. However, shipping platforms like Easyship offers $10,000 of shipping insurance for all domestic and international packages. So if you’re shipping a nice Wagyu steak across the country, shipping insurance will protect your frozen food item.

How to Ship Frozen Food with USPS, UPS, and FedEx

Most major couriers like USPS, UPS, and FedEx have similar guidelines for shipping frozen food. However, there are some differences between couriers. Check out how to ship frozen foods with major couriers below.

Shipping with USPS

USPS does not offer specific refrigeration services for shipments, though they have recommended guidelines to follow if you use their courier services for frozen foods.

Below are some guidelines you need to know to ship frozen food with USPS:

  • USPS does not offer specific refrigeration services for shipments
  • Packaging using dry ice is acceptable
  • Containers must be leakproof and not cause odors. They must NOT be air-tight to allow condensation and carbon dioxide gas from melting ice to escape
  • Dry ice packaging is not allowed for International Shipping
  • A thick polystyrene box is recommended over inexpensive styrofoam coolers
  • Packages with dry ice must have a Class 9 DOT miscellaneous hazardous material warning label and must be marked “Carbon Dioxide Solid, Or Dry Ice"
  • The package must contain the shipper's declaration for dangerous goods prepared in triplicate, and attached to the outside of the package
  • The package must be marked with the name of the food being cooled and contain the net weight of the dry ice

Shipping with UPS

UPS offers excellent courier services for shipping frozen food promptly. You'll need to keep in mind some guidelines, but overall, it's a great choice for shipping frozen food.  

Below are some guidelines you need to know to ship frozen food with UPS:

  • Try to keep shipment time under 30 hours. UPS Next Day Air® for shipping frozen foods
  • Use a thin plastic liner for the inside of the package and enclose the food in a plastic bag.
  • Thick insulated foam containers are suggested for keeping food as cold as possible.
  • Packaging using dry ice is acceptable. Gel packs are a good solution, but frozen water is not recommended.
  • There are restrictions for shipping more than 5.5 pounds of dry ice when shipped via air.
  • If you ship dry ice internationally, IATA regulations will apply.

Shipping with FedEx

Like UPS, FedEx is a good option for shipping frozen foods and offers express and overnight delivery services.

Below are some guidelines you need to know to ship frozen food with FedEx:

  • Consider using FedEx Temp-Assure, a suite of temperature-control solutions
  • FedEx offers cold shipping packaging
  • For US shipments, FedEx Express requires perishable packages to withstand a minimum transit time of 24 hours greater than the delivery commitment
  • Recommended to use insulated foam containers with a minimum of
    1-1/2" (4-cm)-thick walls
  • When shipping with dry ice, correct identification, classification, markings, and labeling on your outer carton
  • Foam containers should be placed inside sturdy outer containers

How Much Does It Cost to Ship Frozen Foods?

When it comes to the cost of shipping frozen, perishable food from one location to the other, there is no fixed price. The monetary amount you spend in shipping your goods is mainly determined by the distance, duration, weight, and type of frozen food you’re trying to ship.

You should also consider that you’ll likely need to invest in dry ice and packing gel, the quantity being determined by the weight of your goods and the distance to be covered before they’re delivered.

To figure out how to ship frozen food cheaply, it's best to properly evaluate the materials required to ship it correctly and the additional service costs your courier may charge.

Once you know your figures for packing and shipping frozen foods, you can use Easyship as a helpful resource. Our shipping calculator is a great way to receive accurate shipping and delivery time estimates from our global courier network and our support with generating labels, tracking shipments abroad, and more.

First, we’ll calculate the rates of major courier companies and then compare them to Easyship’s discounted rates so you can get an idea of the price difference between both options.

Shipping frozen foods with USPS

Let's say you're shipping a 5-pound shipment (12 x 10 x 5) of frozen food from New York to Los Angeles with USPS; we'll calculate the rates for shipping frozen food with the fastest service below.

Courier Service Lead Time Cost
USPS Priority Mail Express 1 business day $78.60
USPS Priority Mail 1-3 business days $27.75

Shipping frozen foods with UPS

Let's say you're shipping a 5-pound shipment (12 x 10 x 5) of frozen food from New York to Los Angeles with UPS; we'll calculate the rates for shipping frozen food with the fastest service below.

Courier Service Lead Time Cost
UPS Next Day Air® Next business day $140.84
UPS Next Day Air® Early Next business day by 8 a.m. $177.07

Shipping frozen foods with FedEx

Let's say you're shipping a 5-pound shipment (12 x 10 x 5) of frozen food from New York to Los Angeles with FedEx; we'll calculate the rates for shipping frozen food with the fastest service below.

Courier Service Lead Time Cost
FedEx First Overnight 1 business day $214.67
FedEx Priority Overnight 1 business day $177.24

Shipping frozen foods with Easyship

Easyship saves users up to 91% off discounted shipping rates from over 250+ courier services, including when shipping frozen foods. We’ll calculate the rates for shipping a 5-pound frozen food shipment (12 x 10 x 5)  with Easyship below.

Courier Service Destination Lead Time Discount Cost
UPS Next Day Air® Early NY to LA Next business day by 8 a.m. $100.86
UPS Next Day Air® NY to LA 1 business day $71.86
USPS Priority Mail Express NY to LA 1-2 business days $66.90
DHL Express Worldwide NY to LA 2-3 business days $21.59

*UPS Discounts are off of UPS daily rates. Rates are limited to shipping from the U.S. only. Rates and any applicable discounts are subject to change at any time without notice.

Related post: Shipping Food: The Dos and Don'ts Guide to Keeping Produce Fresh

The Best Way to Ship Frozen Foods with Easyship

If you sell perishable, frozen, or cold food, it’s crucial to ship them correctly to make sure they arrive fresh and free of any harmful contaminants. If you follow the proper packing and shipping procedures from seafood to fruit to ice cream to anything else, shipping frozen food using FedEx or another major courier is possible.

Best Way to Ship Frozen Foods with Easyship

If you need to find out more about shipping options and prices, Easyship is just a few clicks away to make this easier. With Easyship, you’ll also be able to use tools and features such as the following:

  • Shipping Policy Generator: Our shipping policy generator helps merchants and crowdfunding campaigns generate their shipping policy by providing tracking and insurance options
  • Easyship Shipping Rates Calculator: Access high-volume discounts from major couriers. Plus, get instant access to delivery lead times from premium shipping couriers
  • Easyship Branding Suite: Easyship provides a delivery experience consistent with your brand. Add your logo and advertising materials to your packing slips, landing pages, and tracking emails

Ready to ship? Sign up for a free Easyship account and learn how you can create an optimized shipping experience for shipping frozen foods

Shipping Frozen Foods FAQ

Can I ship frozen food via UPS Ground®?

Technically yes, but you may want to consider shipping with express courier services to avoid any spoilage.

What's the best way to ship frozen food overnight from one state to another?

UPS, USPS, and FedEx all offer overnight courier services for shipping frozen foods.

What are the best-frozen foods to ship internationally?

USPS, UPS, and FedEx are excellent couriers for shipping frozen food internationally.


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