Shipping chocolate isn’t for the faint of heart. When transporting perishable food, damaged packaging and delivery delays can cause more than inconvenience — particularly around Valentine’s Day when the condition of a gift can impact the condition of a relationship. Fortunately, you can take steps to make sure the chocolate you deliver arrives at your customers’ doorsteps fresh and on time.
“It’s amazing how sensitive chocolate is to temperature changes,” says Susan Li, a packaging expert at UPS. If it’s too cold, fatty acids rise to the surface, creating unpleasant-looking white spots. If it’s too warm, chocolates soften and lose shape. “Maintaining product temperature helps maintain product appearances,” Li says, “and that makes chocolate surprisingly tricky to ship.”
Several interconnected factors go into optimizing chocolate shipping: time of year, environment, packaging, package components, and speed of delivery, each determining the utility of the other.
“My customers really take a look at time of year as the main criteria to determine how they’re going to ship perishables — and where in the country they’re shipping it to that time of year,” says Louis DeJianne, director of retail at UPS. During the summer months, for example, companies may pack their goods using various types of coolant, but in the fall or winter they may use nothing at all.
Speed is also a consideration. “This may not come as a surprise, but chocolate shippers typically select a faster mode of service,” DeJianne says. “They look more towards a two-day air service to ensure that the product arrives at its destination in a timely manner, without having to spend a lot of time out in the elements.”
DeJianne adds that shippers can go a step further and examine the capabilities of their carrier: “For instance, they may see that they can ship goods within a one-day or two-day footprint via ground service rather than shipping by air.” He notes that you can ship a dry ice package via ground without difficulty; however, restrictions exist around the quantity of dry ice you can ship via air services.
Figuring all this out can be a challenge, too. If your carrier offers calculators that can help you weigh shipping distances, time, and cost, or if your carrier can provide personal consultations, take advantage of them.
“The experts in the UPS Package Lab work with many shippers to optimize deliveries,” DeJianne says. “Depending on the need, our experts recommend appropriate package sizes and package types, like medium-sized corrugated boxes, and cooling mechanisms, like gel packs. Gel packs and dry ice have different cooling times, so if you want to keep your package a certain temperature range for two or three days, you would want to use the right materials.”
Lastly, shippers should do their best to make the end of the process seamless. “I think the challenge for the last mile of delivery is to get packages in consumers’ hands as fast as possible, or to maintain package temperature until it is picked up,” DeJianne says. Give customers a clear understanding of when their package will arrive. Provide a date and time so the customer can be there to accept the delivery. You don’t want the package to sit on a doorstep or in a vestibule where temperature changes could affect it.
“From a UPS perspective, we offer helpful services like UPS My Choice that allow consumers to keep an eye on packages in transit and to get a window of delivery,” DeJianne says.
Shippers also would do well to provide options to receive packages, such as by utilizing the UPS Access Point Network, a combination of UPS stores in independent locations around the country that can receive packages for people who are not able to accept delivery at a particular address.
When shippers familiarize themselves with the challenges of sending chocolate — and their solutions — they may be in a better position to provide excellent customer service. Working with an experienced logistics provider is a smart way to help ensure that those boxes of chocolate arrive well-protected and on schedule.
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