Shipping fresh produce is a high-paced industry because of the effort it takes to make deliveries within a short timeframe. Fresh produce often has very short shelf lives, making the timely transport of the products critical to ensure freshness. If a shipment pickup time or delivery schedule is late, it means a day or more of freshness is lost.
What you need to know about shipping fresh produce or refrigerated reefer shipping?
There’s an excellent chance that you purchase most of your fruits and vegetables from the local grocery store, particularly in the winter months. Although your supermarket may be a couple of blocks or miles from your home, the brightly colored fruits and vegetables most likely came from a farm hundreds or even thousands of miles away.
There is a lot to know about how it all happens including proper temperatures, what crops are growing when and where everything is heading once loaded on a truck.
Choose the Right Wrapping Materials for Food Shipping
Pack your perishable food to minimize spilling and maximize temperature retention. Start with plastic zippered bags or plastic containers with secure lids. Wrap each smaller container with more plastic wrap or with aluminum foil to keep the temperature in and to prevent spillage.
If you’re sending food in breakable containers, such as glass or pottery, wrap each container in bubble roll and surround them with foam peanuts. Don’t use newspaper to wrap cold, insulated materials, as it tears when it gets wet and doesn’t provide enough protection.
Choose the Right Box and Packing Materials
Pack your fresh or frozen food in a foam container or an insulated corrugated carton. Don’t reuse boxes; instead, use a new box with each food shipment. Boxes weaken every time you use them, and reusing a box could be disastrous when shipping perishables.
Polystyrene foam, polyurethane foam and reflective materials all reduce the transfer of heat. Consider placing a foam box or cooler inside a corrugated cardboard box for shipping. The thicker the walls of your container, the more likely the contents are to maintain a constant temperature.
The final wrapping of your box is crucial as well. Many people like to use duct tape for just about any taping job, but it doesn’t work when you’re shipping hot or cold items. Heat makes it melt, and cold makes it loosen.
Shipping Fresh Produce Safely
Produce is sensitive freight due to the varying items and the individual shelf life timelines. The same applies when you are learning how to transport ice cream. If shippers or trucking companies fail to use guidelines, the fast-paced process of transporting items grows riskier.
However, when dealing with produce and other food items intended for consumption, there is no wiggle room when it comes to safety. Think about it; what makes produce so inviting at the grocery store? In most cases, one of the top responses is likely the appearance. The common denominator of maintaining quality appearance along with the overall freshness of produce is to plan transport ahead of time. It means trucks can be ready when the fruit and vegetables arrive at the dock, not flagged for safety violations.
The Food Modernization Safety Act or FMSA, passed in 2011 and implemented in 2017, focuses on maintaining food safety that involves transporting produce. The act, under the direction of the FDA, requires vehicles transporting food to adhere to strict standards. The goal is to prevent illness due to contaminated food.
Requirements under the FMSA:
- Vehicles must be clean; able to be cleaned to prevent contamination
- Kept at safe temperature during transport
- Proper training required by carriers
- Documentation of compliance
Shippers looking to secure capacity for produce loads should verify that the trucking company is compliant with FMSA. Making the decision upfront to ensure the vehicles hauling produce are capable of the job saves time and money.
This is where the shipper and trucking company form a partnership. The shipper’s interest is to keep the product save for sale and consumption. The trucking company wants to provide quality service. Delivering a bad load of produce to market does not fare well for all involved. The trucking company and the shipper should communicate regularly discuss pertinent information about the freight to maintain freshness and safety.
Shipping Fresh Produce Temperature Matters
Transporting produce can present a challenge because of temperatures that are maintained during the cold chain logistics process. The fragile nature of fruits and vegetables is a major part to consider whenever goods are loaded for shipment. Remember this is not one temperature fits all.
The need to have regulated temperatures set while delivering produce is necessary to maintain quality. In addition, the delivery must arrive on time. Altering either situation may jeopardize the produce shipment. So just a slight degree or two difference in the truck could be a negative move for sensitive produce.
Suggested temperatures for transporting produce range from freezing at 32 degrees to as high as 50-60 degrees depending on the item. The bill of lading with each shipment should detail the exact temperature required for the trailer. Drivers should be aware of the type of produce and keep a close eye on gauges to avoid any problems during transit. The driver can adjust temperatures as needed.
In the range of 32-36 degrees is good to ship items like apples, blueberries, broccoli, cantaloupes, grapes, oranges (Florida), peaches, packaged salad greens, and strawberries.
Avocados and cranberries are safe to travel at temperatures between 38-40 degrees. At between 40-45 degrees late crops of potatoes, honeydews and green beans ship well. Take temperatures to an even warmer range of 45-50 and cucumbers are happy along with watermelon, eggplant lemons and grapefruit grown in Florida and Texas.
The warmest temperature advised for produce to ship is 55 degrees to 60 degrees. Here is where early crops of potatoes remain fresh during transit. The temperature range is also good to ship bananas, tomatoes, and grapefruit from Arizona and California.
Refrigerated trucks or reefers are ideal to transport produce. The ability to adjust the temperature as needed makes it suitable to ship a variety of freight that requires a chilly ride.
The Shelf Life of Shipping Fresh Produce
Not all produce is the same when it comes to shipping. The industry deems sensitive produce, with a short shelf life of a day or two, as light density. Next, produce that lasts 4 to 6 days is medium density. The heartier produce crops, those with a long shelf life in excess of a week rank in the high-density category.
High-density produce with a shelf life of 7 days or more include:
Medium density produce with peak freshness on the shelf for 2 to 4 days includes:
Light density produce on the shelf for about a day or two includes:
- Green Beans
The trucking company selected to transport the produce needs to know from the shipper exactly what the freight includes to ensure
Shippers are working against the clock to get produce to market so consumers can enjoy at the peak of freshness. The strict shelf life of produce is why shippers often prefer a dedicated trucking solution to ensure delivery. The longer it takes to get produce shipped after harvest, the higher the chances are items will spoil before reaching the shelf.
The pressure is high for shippers to secure transportation for produce to move quickly. An extra day freight remains on the dock could cost thousands of dollars in lost produce sales. Shippers work hard to know ahead of time how freight needs to move and find capacity with trucking companies. One misstep in this area and freshness levels decrease and shoppers will go elsewhere.
Cannonball Express Transportation
Cannonball Express Shipping Company has been providing top-of-the-line service at a reasonable rate. Based in Omaha, Nebraska, we provide nationwide refrigerated LTL services, as well as, local delivery services. Contact us today!
Nationwide Shipping Company Services:
- Refrigerated LTL deliveries in the lower 48 states
- Refrigerated Cross dock
Local Shipping Company Services:
- Redelivery Services
- Truckload & LTL Capabilities
- Cross dock
- Warehouse and Distribution capabilities from multiple Omaha Locations