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A Guide To Shipping Perishable And Non-Perishable Food For Your Online Food Store

Starting a new business is easy in this new age of the Internet. Right now is the perfect time to do it, as e-commerce sales are expected to grow by 8.8% in 2024.

One of the best e-commerce stores to open is food-related; the demand for delicacies isn’t running out anytime soon. However, starting an online food store has many challenges due to complicated food preservation requirements. Here is a guide to shipping perishable and non-perishable items to give your customers the freshest products. 

Key Takeaways

  • Perishable foods need special packaging and fast shipping to maintain quality and safety. Use insulated containers, gel packs, and dry ice to keep items cold.
  • Non-perishable foods are easier to ship but still require sturdy packaging to prevent damage. Use corrugated boxes, bubble wrap, and packing peanuts for protection.
  • Choose the right size box for your products. Too much empty space leads to shifting and damage. Too little space doesn’t allow enough cushioning.
  • Clearly label boxes that contain food, especially perishables. Include “Perishable”, “Keep Refrigerated”, and “This Side Up” labels.
  • Pick a reliable shipping carrier that offers fast shipping options for perishables. Popular choices are UPS, FedEx, and USPS.

How to Ship Perishable Food Items

Perishable food items include dairy, meat, and seafood. These items require careful handling to ensure that they arrive fresh and are safe to eat. Using cold chain compliance is essential for transporting and storing perishable goods. This involves adherence to specific protocols and standards to maintain the temperature of goods throughout the supply chain. It entails consistent monitoring and control of temperature during storage, transportation, and handling. 

Due to high moisture and temperature control requirements, perishable food spoils quickly. Microorganisms, like mold, yeast, and bacteria, can also ruin it, leading to health risks. Here are three ways to ship perishable food items. 

1. Use Proper Packaging 

You must use the proper packaging to keep this food excellent during shipping. First, vacuum seal the food to protect it from moisture and air. Then, choose the appropriate insulation outer box and filler materials. You can use:

  • Insulated foam box: This creates a barrier against temperature changes. 
  • Corrugated outer box: Place the foam box inside this to prevent damage during handling. 
  • Packaging cushion: Use filler material to keep the food in place and provide extra insulation. You can try traditional materials like bubble wrap, packing peanuts, or packing paper. Opt for molded trays or foam inserts if you ship delicate items like fruits. 
  • Watertight containers or bags: Seal items in watertight containers or bags to prevent leaks, especially if you’re using ice as a coolant.
  • Absorbent materials: Line the package with absorbent pads or paper towels for additional leak protection.

Label your packages with “perishable: keep refrigerated” for prompt, timely unpacking. For shipments containing dry ice, follow carrier-specific guidelines for hazardous material labeling.

2. Add a Coolant

Different foods require specific temperatures, so you must ensure that the food stays out of the “danger zone” (40° to 140°F) where bacteria can thrive. Coolant options include:

  • Gel packs: These are suitable for keeping food excellent for 12 to 24 hours, so use only for short-distance shipments
  • Dry ice is best for shipping frozen food over long distances, but handle it with care using tongs and avoid direct contact with food. 
  • Ice pack: Similar to gel packs filled with solid ice, this pack is effective for 12 to 24 hours in a foam cooler. Note that ice packs can leak and are heavier, increasing shipping costs.

3. Communicate With the Customer

You must ensure transparency by informing customers of the delivery date and time. Emphasize the need to unpack and store the food immediately upon arrival. For packages containing dry ice, provide instructions on safe handling and disposal.

How to Ship Non-Perishable Food Items

Non-perishable food includes canned food, rice, pasta, baked items like cookies, and packaged snacks like chips and crackers. These have a long shelf life and don’t require refrigeration. However, while they don’t perish fast, you still need to ensure they arrive in good condition. Here are three tips to help you with that:

  1. Seal the food properly: Ensure the good items are tightly sealed in original packaging or airtight containers. Poorly sealed items can spill or become contaminated during shipping.
  2. Ship quickly: To maintain freshness, avoid shipping delays, and use expedited options. 
  3. Use the proper packaging: Use sturdy corrugated boxes or padded envelopes to prevent damage. This is especially true for fragile items like cookie chips or glass bottles.


Ensuring food items’ safe and fresh delivery is essential for customer satisfaction and your business’s success. Using proper packaging, adding the correct coolant, and maintaining communication with your customers can ensure your food items get delivered properly. Following these guidelines will help you provide high-quality fresh food, encourage repeated orders, and build a loyal customer base for your e-commerce business.

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