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A guide to shipping ice cream

A close-up of colorful scoops of ice cream.

Whether you’ve got a fresh batch of homemade pistachio ice cream and want to send some to a friend, or you’re away on vacation and can’t get enough of the local flavors, there are plenty of reasons to ship a few pints of ice cream. But with temperature-sensitive, perishable items, you need to be extra careful when you ship. After all, you don’t want the recipient to get a package that’s a soupy, spoiled mess.

What can go wrong when you’re shipping ice cream?

It goes without saying, but since ice cream is a temperature-sensitive product, it can be at risk of melting during transit. Which means maintaining freshness and flavor can be a challenge, since there’s always a chance of unwanted temperature changes when your ice cream is moved from one location to another.

Shipping different flavor combinations can also be problematic, as blending flavors can change the way that ice cream reacts to changes in temperature. To give just one example, a strawberry-chocolate ice cream mix may melt differently than chocolate or strawberry ice cream by itself, which can make it even more difficult to ship.

It’s also worth remembering that when new components are added to ice cream, such as marshmallows, chocolate chips and candy, it can become even more complicated to ship ice cream. If any of these elements react poorly to cold, as marshmallows tend to do, it becomes difficult to ship them together. Ultimately, ice cream which has been heated up and then refrozen can taste icy and grainy—not exactly the enjoyable ice cream experience you want.

4 packaging strategies for shipping ice cream

Want to learn how to ship ice cream so that it maintains its stipulated temperature threshold and tastes great at the end of its journey? These four steps can make shipping ice cream a treat:

1. Keep cool with dry ice

Dry ice is a great choice for shipping ice cream, as well as other types of food that need to be kept frozen. It’s a much better option than regular ice, which can be heavy—adding to the cost of your shipment—and may dampen the inside of your packaging as it melts. When you’re determining how much dry ice to add to your shipment, be sure to add enough to cover the expected in-transit time, as well as an additional 24 hours of time to cover any delays.

When shipping ice cream with dry ice, it’s important to follow the proper safety precautions. Gloves and goggles are mandatory when you touch dry ice, as it can cause burns if not handled correctly. Pack the dry ice and ice cream inside a two-inch thick, sturdy polystyrene (EPS) container and place it inside a corrugated cardboard box. It’s crucial that you do not make the package airtight, as dry ice releases carbon dioxide and the vapor needs to be able to vent, otherwise it could explode.

Another important thing to remember is that there are restrictions when shipping via air. If you’re using 5.5 pounds (2.5 kg) or less of dry ice, simply mark the carton with “Dry Ice” or “Carbon Dioxide, Solid,” along with a note of the contents and how many pounds or kilograms of dry ice are included. If you have more than 5.5 lbs. of dry ice, you’ll also need to include a Class 9 diamond hazard label.

If you’re shipping dry ice internationally, IATA regulations apply. You will need to have a signed International Special Commodities (ISC) contract and a Class 9 diamond hazard label with the amount of dry ice written on the label.

2. Consider using gel packs

Gel packs are another option, although it’s worth remembering that they are generally used to keep food between 32 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, which means that they may not be the best choice for your ice cream products. They do, however, last longer than dry ice, which means that gel packs could be used as a backup option when shipping ice cream with dry ice. You should also note that dry ice may not be the best choice if you’re shipping ice cream with marshmallows, as they may not withstand the extreme cold of dry ice, which has a temperature of around -109° F.

3. Ensure a maximum transit time of 30 hours

Within the 48 contiguous United States, UPS Next Day Air® shipping will help ensure that your package has a maximum transit time of 30 hours or less. When shipping cold items, that’s a great way of safeguarding the quality of your ice cream and keeping the vulnerabilities it could be exposed to reduced to a minimum. Another consideration should also be the day on which you choose to ship your ice cream. Be sure to ship early so that your package won’t have to wait around over a weekend or a holiday.

4. Monitor your shipments

Finally, you can monitor your shipments with UPS Tracking, which enables you to gain up-to-date information about your package throughout the entire journey. Regardless of how many packages you’re sending—UPS allows you to track up to 25 packages—you can maintain full visibility and enjoy peace of mind when it comes to your ice cream shipments.

So whether you’re sending plain vanilla, decadent mint fudge or anything in between, by taking a few easy precautions, you can reduce the risk of your ice cream melting during transit and having the flavor ruined. Once you’ve got your ice cream all packaged up correctly, you can ship right away with UPS.

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