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Shipping Perishables vs. Non-Perishables: The Key Differences You Need to Understand

Michael Wilson | Jun 9, 2018

Category: Commercial

Perishable items are simply defined as anything that can "decay or go bad very quickly." This includes food, beverages, and similar types of items. They're often just as fragile ...

Perishable items are simply defined as anything that can "decay or go bad very quickly." This includes food, beverages, and similar types of items. They're often just as fragile as non-perishable items, but in a totally different way. If a non-perishable item isn't packaged or shipped properly, it could become damaged during the trip - but then again, it might not be. If a perishable item isn't packaged or shipped properly, it is almost always going to be ruined by the time it gets where it's going. Worse, if it's food, it could even end up making that person sick. If you're a business that opens up a whole world of trouble that you really don't want to be a part of, which makes your choice of packaging supplies integral to how you ship.

This is one of those situations where "getting it done" and "getting it done properly" are two different things and should always be treated as such.

Because of this, how you choose to ship those items is of paramount importance in terms of guaranteeing that an item makes it to its destination in one piece. When it comes to shipping perishables versus non-perishables, there are a few key factors you'll definitely want to be aware of moving forward.

Perishables vs. Non-Perishables: The Costs

Because perishable items are in some ways more fragile than non-perishable items, it stands to reason that there is a bit of a cost difference when it comes to shipping one versus the other. This is one of those areas where your selection of packaging supplies will be particularly important (and relevant), as perishables will require you to consider a number of variables that you wouldn't otherwise need to.

For example, let's say that you are trying to ship some type of small food product to a customer. If that item needs to be kept cool at all times, you now have to think about insulation. A specific type of Styrofoam insulation can be used to place inside a cardboard box in varying thicknesses depending on exactly what you're shipping, allowing you to also include ice or dry ice packs that will survive for the duration of the trip along with the item itself. Styrofoam Boxes may also be employed, which essentially act as their own insulation. Both of these options are, naturally, more expensive than traditional packaging supplies that just need to keep something from breaking in transit. 

On the other end of the spectrum you have things like insulated or temperature controlled shipping containers, which often have their own built-in refrigeration units designed to keep a large volume of items safe during transit. These would allow shippers to have better control over a constant internal temperature, are often connected to either an external or internal power supply and come in sizes ranging from 20 to 40 feet or more depending on your needs. This, too, will be more expensive than shipping items in a "regular" shipping container. 

The Efficiency Differences

Another one of the reasons why shipping perishable items versus non-perishable items tends to cost more comes down to efficiency. Many experts, including those at UPS, agree that you should always choose the fastest shipping option available when shipping perishable items because you don't want your goods to spoil en route. Generally speaking, this will be dictated based on exactly what it is you're trying to ship.

For food items, some type of "next day" delivery service is often recommended just to get your product into the hands of its recipients as soon as you can. Choosing a more cost-friendly method of shipping may get the same product to the same person two or three days later, by which point you may run into problems.

The Best Ways to Transport

All of this leads directly into the most important consideration to make with this topic: how, specifically, you transport that item. If you were sending a perishable item across the country, air will almost always be the best option simply because it's the fastest. However, depending on the volume of items you're sending that may not be possible, which is where those aforementioned temperature regulated shipping containers come in handy. These obviously can't be shipped by air, but they are often available in variants that can go by rail (read: via a train) or by boat (for international shipments). 

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