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From field to florist: The logistics of flower delivery

Several flower bouquets in a variety of colors lay on a table.

From the vibrant and hardy daylily to the delicate and exotic jade vine, there’s nothing quite as astonishing as the variety and beauty of flowers around the world. Except, of course, the fact that the majority of flowers like these somehow make the journey from the field to florists around the world within 48 hours.

"Cold chain solutions are vital to international flower delivery. Without proper packaging and express shipping, flower life is cut significantly shorter."

It’s hard to picture, but as many as 89 million flowers are cut, gathered, shipped and arranged each holiday season.

But, how can so many flowers be delivered so quickly and in such excellent shape? That’s where a process known as cold chain shipping comes into play, allowing flowers to make it from the field to a customer at lightning speed.

Early morning cut, late morning flight

Flowers are a complicated product to ship because they have a notoriously short lifespan and are easy to damage. That’s why experienced shipping partners will start to harvest flowers early in the morning and get them processed and shipped to the country’s largest shipping facility as quickly as possible. For many flowers, that means making the journey from a field in Ecuador to Miami, Fla.

“A significant portion of international flower delivery starts on farms not far from the capital of Quito, Ecuador,” says Domingo Mendez, cargo marketing manager for UPS’s Americas Region. “Right after being cut, the flowers are hydrated, boxed with proper packaging and placed in a cooler before being driven to the airport. They arrive close to the flight departure time to be loaded onto a temperature-controlled UPS cargo plane en route to UPS’s 27,000-square-foot facility at the Miami-Dade airport.”

“Cold chain solutions are vital to international flower delivery,” explains Mendez. “Without proper packaging and express shipping, flower life is cut significantly shorter.”

 Flowers arrive and stay cold

Thanks to express shipping, these flowers make it to Miami by 8 p.m. the same day, where they’re held in a cooler until they can be cleared through customs by the U.S. Department of Agriculture – usually a four- to eight-hour process.

 What’s incredible about this international flower delivery process is that, over the course of their journey, the flowers spend less than 15 minutes outside of a climate-controlled environment. “Our biggest priority is timeliness and efficiency, because we want to have the product in and out of Miami as quickly as possible,” says Mendez. “Of the 35 to 45 minutes it takes to offload the aircraft, the flowers will only spend five to 10 minutes outside of refrigeration before they enter the UPS facility.”

 Flowers depart Miami for customers

 Once the flowers have been cleared by Customs, they embark on the final leg of the journey: local wholesale flower vendors. Wholesalers take their blooms directly from the airport to a consolidated facility – such as a flower mart – where other local flower purveyors can purchase them.

“Dependability and being on time no matter where you ship is what sets UPS apart from other cold shipping solutions providers,” says Mendez. “If a shipment of flowers is headed to another location beyond Miami, such as the East Coast or the Midwest, they’ll be distributed to the appropriate destination on UPS cargo planes. And for individual purchases from online florists, for example, UPS will deliver them directly to the customer’s door.”

Troubleshooting temperature-sensitive products

Like most temperature-sensitive products, flowers have a short window of opportunity to make it from their international origins to domestic distributors and final customers.

 Since plants begin to decompose the moment they’re cut, international flower delivery is truly a race against the clock – and that’s why working with a global leader like UPS is so important. With a proven cold chain shipping process and purpose-built facilities, UPS has the resources in place to expedite shipping for perishable items. And during busy times of the year or when hazardous weather strikes, UPS can seamlessly deploy additional vehicles and resources to complete the job.

 Healthy, beautiful flowers won’t survive their long journey without a proper cold chain shipping solution in place. For flower vendors, this process is made simple with UPS Next Day Air® service and its international flower delivery process. But whether you need to ship flowers or other temperature-sensitive items like food products or flu vaccines, UPS has you covered.

 Learn more about how UPS’s cold chain shipping solutions can help you ship and distribute perishable products.

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