A Growing Trend in the Fresh Food Industry
The fresh food delivery industry reached new heights during pandemic lockdowns, but as society settles into a new normal, many business owners struggle to maintain profits. Expanding into shipping is an attractive proposition to reach new customers, but it comes with unique risks and rewards.
Luckily for us, Skarsgard Farms’ savvy Operations Manager, Chelsea Smith, was kind enough to share her experiences so readers can plan accordingly before leaping into another vertical. We distilled her thoughts for this post, but the entire text, including diagrams, is available for Delivery Biz Pro users.
Before we get into the details, let’s cover several rewards and challenges of shipping perishables.
- Expanded Reach: Adding shipping to your fresh food delivery business allows you to tap into wider regional or national markets. Reach customers beyond your local area, potentially boosting your base and revenue.
- Convenience is King: Most consumers prefer, and even expect, doorstep delivery regardless of where they live. With shipping infrastructure in place, you can champion and market this convenience to your audience.
- Curated Experience: Take control of the variables to guarantee profit and mitigate risk. By limiting your offerings or bundling them together, you can rest assured each transaction is worthwhile.
- Brand Building: New markets mean fresh opportunities to network with regional influencers and brand advocates. Leverage new customers and local talent to drive sustained success for your fresh food business.
- Temperature Control: The foremost challenge is maintaining the integrity of your perishables during transit. Extreme weather conditions can wreak havoc, even with ice packs and insulated liners. Spikes in temperature during Summer make shipping a daunting task.
- Packaging Puzzles: Efficiently packing perishables for shipping is akin to a game of Tetris. Each product must be snugly fit together to avoid unnecessary air pockets that can hasten thawing. Proper packing necessitates careful planning and testing.
- Courier Confusion: Choosing the right courier makes all the difference. The choice should be region-specific. As Chelsea points out, UPS may excel in urban areas, while FedEx may excel in rural areas. DHL is not feasible for smaller vendors due to their high minimums.
- Climate Uncontrolled: Not all warehouses and sorting facilities are temperature-controlled. Every second your order spends waiting to be loaded or unloaded is critical. During the warmer months, a van’s cargo space can be significantly hotter than outside.
Before committing to sending orders near or far, you need to consider all the variables.
1. Inconsistency and Regional Importance: Shipping perishable items can be inconsistent, and the region to which products are shipped is crucial. Extreme weather conditions, such as heatwaves, can disrupt shipping operations. Be prepared to pause shipped orders during the Summer.
2. Frozen and Shelf-Stable Products: Frozen and shelf-stable products are the easiest to ship safely. Use insulated liners or styrofoam boxes with dry ice or ice packs. Note that shipping with dry ice can be more complicated due to specific regulations and expenses.
3. Proper Handling Instructions: When using dry ice, include an information sheet with instructions for handling and disposing of it, along with safety precautions. Compliance with government regulations is essential. The couriers and customers must be aware of what they handle.
4. Ice Pack Recommendations: Use ice packs equivalent to 50% of the weight of the shipped products. This can increase shipping costs dramatically when shipping frozen and refrigerated foods. Those striving for green operations should consider the waste generated with disposable ice packs.
5. Curated Boxes: Curated boxes with tightly packed contents are more effective for maintaining temperature control. Avoid leaving too much air space, which can lead to quicker thawing of ice packs. Bundling products can be a great way to control your margins and save customers time.
6. Best Courier Service: The choice of courier service depends on the destination region. UPS and FedEx may have different reliability levels in urban and rural areas. DHL may be unsuitable for small vendors due to high minimum shipment requirements. Spend time learning the strengths and weaknesses of each option.
7. Efficient Packing: Efficiently packing shipping orders is a significant challenge. The tighter the fit, the cooler it will stay. Multiple test shipments are essential to ensure that products arrive in good condition. These tests will pay for themselves almost immediately once you are up and running.
8. Label Placement: Proper placement of shipping labels is crucial, as drivers are trained to load boxes label side up. Consider using labels or stickers to indicate perishable content, the need for immediate refrigeration, or fragility. Remember not to cover addresses or barcodes with safety notifications.
9. Temperature Control in Warehouses: Be aware that shipping facilities like FedEx and UPS warehouses may not be temperature-controlled. This can affect the quality and condition of perishable items. Monitor time spent between destinations using the provided tracking number.
10. Delivery Times: Delivery times are not guaranteed, and products may spend more time outside of refrigeration than expected, which can impact the quality of the products upon arrival. Depending on the destination, carefully consider the choice of courier and packing materials.
11. Consider Costs: Consider the additional costs of packaging, coolants, specialty labels, and labor when determining shipping fees. Overnight shipping may not be economically viable for some businesses. Chelsea suggests flat rates that cover shipping costs to the furthest edge of a zone. Leftover postage fees from the closer locations offset extra expenses from the further destinations.
Expanding your fresh food delivery business to include shipping is a promising avenue for growth, but it has its challenges, as highlighted above. It demands careful planning, attention to detail, and compliance with regulations. However, the potential rewards, such as market expansion and diversified revenue streams, can make the effort worthwhile. By using the insights provided in this post, you can navigate the complexities and unlock the full potential of your fresh food business.
Thanks for reading. Like and leave a comment below if you would like to share your own experiences with shipping perishable products.
Remember, if you are a Delivery Biz Pro customer, you can request a full copy of Skarsgard Farms’ written experiences.
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