Temperature-controlled aircraft, customs clearance, or refrigerated trailers might not be the first things that come to mind when you think of a Mother's Day floral arrangement. But they're essential in making sure the flowers in Mom's bouquet are as fresh as possible.
UPS's temperature-controlled shipping, or cold chain technology, keeps products at a given temperature range from start to finish, including the storage, transportation, and distribution phases of the shipping timeline. It's used in the movement of temperature-sensitive items like vaccines, food, and agricultural goods.
"With flowers there's a limited shelf life," says Tom O'Malley, vice president of UPS Air Cargo for the Americas. "The key to having a good product is the maintenance of this cold chain. The challenge is keeping the flowers at a steady, good temperature."
The entire process, from farm to importer, takes as little as 15 hours. Here's a closer look at what's involved from the flower farm to your local U.S. florist's shop.
South American Flower Farms
The shipping process begins in South America, where flower growers in Ecuador and Colombia cut and package their fragrant cargo. The flowers travel from the farms to an assembly point in the respective capital cities of Quito or Bogota, where UPS Air Cargo takes receipt.
"We have cooler facilities in both of those locations," O'Malley says. "So we immediately accept the goods; they're palletized and placed into coolers."
The coolers help keep the flowers fresh while more arrive during a period of six to eight hours prior to the flight leaving.
The flowers are then loaded onto UPS aircraft where UPS pilots can control temperatures right from the cabin.
"They can get the temperature down to 40-38 degrees on the plane, which is perfect for the flowers," O'Malley says.
From Miami to Florists' Shops
The flowers arrive in Miami, a primary destination point for flowers originating in Latin America. Within minutes of landing, UPS unloads the planes and moves the flowers to almost 30,000 square feet of cooler space. This cooling space serves as a specialized plant quarantine processing center.
"We know that maintaining a cold chain is important," O'Malley says. "Minutes count. We do things such as have rapid doors which close within seconds after being opened to maintain the cold temperature in the warehouse."
There, customs agents can go through the flowers. Once they clear customs, the flowers are bound for trucks and planes heading to wholesale distributors and florists shops all over the U.S.
So whether you're picking up a Mother's Day bouquet at the grocery store, getting it right from the florist's shop, or ordering it online, chances are some of the flowers in the arrangement recently completed a chilly trip halfway across the world.