How to Safely Pack & Ship Fresh or Frozen Seafood by FedEx, UPS, USPS Mail or Deliver Carrier!
Decades ago, when people wanted a taste of Sockeye Salmon, they had either suffer the expense to catch it themselves or hustle over to the grocery store or fish market, if there was even one in town. The author himself lives in a reasonably-sized town in Wisconsin with not a single fish market, so people like me just had to suffer until the snow melted allowing us to leave the house.
Today, delicious fish is delivered to anybody's front door using styrofoam shipping boxes for single-time orders and subscription boxes mailed regularly as a fast, modern-day convenience to customers. If you're interested in making money doing just that, the information that follows will clear up the question of how.
How to Correctly Assemble a Seafood Shipping Box for Your Customers
Seafood shipping by mail is now a multi-billion-dollar industry giving the buying public a wide variety of frozen or fresh fish, shellfish, and more to choose from. Global 'Cold Chain Logistics' means we have all the warehouses, vehicles, and storage necessary to get a seafood shipment from one side of the country to another within a day.
That kind of interconnected distribution infrastructure allows seafood markets and seafood shipping companies to offer fresh and frozen online menu options ranging from whole sockeye salmon, fish fillets, and sea scallops to lobster tails, crabs, and other delights of the deep.
Getting a shot at your piece of the seafood shipping industry revenue means knowing how to pack and ship seafood by mail so that it is easy, fast, and profitable.
Let's go over how to pack and ship what is essentially a very delicate, perishable meat cargo that can easily spoil if not well-packed in an insulated package. The shipment has to withstand the possibility of rough transport across long distances while still maintaining the physical and thermal integrity of the valuable seafood products inside.
Why You Must Package Your Mail Order Seafood In an Insulated Shipping Box
Before the advent of insulated mail order seafood, your customers would have to catch it all themselves or find an in-season market. Now, though, we don't have to leave the comfort of our living room and can have any of our favorite seafood bundles brought straight to us, often with free shipping. This fact raises the bar high for all players because customers expect their packages quickly and their seafood to be as close as possible to 'fresh-caught.'
You may be in the seafood business as a distributor, reseller, retailer, or seafood company delivering fish like wild salmon, shrimp, crab, clams, and other sea-to-table products by FedEx, USPS, or UPS. In that case, you already benefit from the fact that packing and shipping seafood products have become easier than ever, thanks to overnight and 2-day delivery.
It is not rocket science, but with customer satisfaction and bad online reviews a constant concern, so the steps that follow on how to pack and ship mail order seafood to customers and clients will help you avoid problems.
The Perishables Clock is Always Ticking Down to Zero and Profit Loss
The shelf life countdown starts the moment your cargo comes out of the sea and is flash-frozen or placed on ice before going to market or a warehouse for resale or retail turnover. In the case of fresh and unfrozen seafood products, the clock counting down your cargo's shelf life ticks much faster than frozen seafood.
Fresh seafood keeps losing shelf life while frozen seafood gets a life extension that can last for months. The faster you get fresh, refrigeration-temperature perishables into paying hands, the better for all parties.
The Temperature 'Danger Zone' for Seafood Shipping
The most important reason for protecting your meat products from warm temperatures (prior to and during shipment) is a health risk the USDA calls, 'The Danger Zone' for perishable foods.
The Danger Zone costs the food shipping industry billions of dollars globally, and governments take the matter seriously because of public health. Stringent regulations are in place to cut down on incidents of food-borne illness. Fortunately, today's shipping environment makes adherence and compliance a profitable breeze.
All meat sent by mail is considered a perishable product, which means it has a short shelf life and can be adversely affected by time, temperature, and exposure to the elements. Meat is especially sensitive and after a very short period of exposure to heat can set off bacterial growth of some very nasty microorganisms that can lead to a lousy experience with your product, including illness.
According to the USDA, The Danger Zone for Seafood Shipping is between 40 °F and 140 °F, the temperature range where bacteria grow like wildfire and can double their numbers in under an hour.
Perishable seafood products are those that lose their quality (visual, taste, touch, smell), spoil, become inedible, or are completely unhealthy if not kept within a low refrigerated range or frozen temperature to extend shelf life.
Avoid the Danger Zone by keeping seafood at 40° F (4.4° C) or below for fresh seafood, or frozen seafood at 0° F (-17.8° C) or below.
This way, you help prevent the spread of microorganisms that spoil the product (Spoilage Bacteria) and ones that make customers sick (Pathogenic Bacteria).
This is one reason why the majority of seafood shipments are frozen rather than sent fresh, and those that are mailed fresh are done overnight or 2-day. Whereas frozen seafood has a longer shelf life, it also requires enough cooling sources to prevent thawing.
Your mission in providing insulated shipping services is to keep your products (and your customers) well out of risk. Protecting your seafood shipments is simple and easy thanks to the space-age cooling sources like Gel Ice Packs and Dry Ice.
Seafood packages must be assembled with care and delivered promptly to prevent radical temperature changes. Factors that can ruin a shipment include assembling it in a warm area, cheaply-made shipping coolers, or flimsy cardboard boxes.
The following are a few tips for making sure your seafood is packed and shipped well every time. You’ll learn about shipping both fresh seafood and frozen and how to pack your shipments. Plus, you’ll learn what the best containers to use are to ensure your products arrive safely.
Importance of 'PRE-COOLING' Your Seafood Shipment Before Packing & Shipping
Pre-cooling is when you handle all insulated packaging logistics (including the products, product wrapping, and shipping supplies) in an area that is cold enough to prevent warm temperatures from affecting your cargo.
Some seafood shippers use a 'Cold Room' that is a package assembly area mechanically cooled by a combination of large fans or cold air blowers while others use a walk-in refrigerator or freezer.
Putting your insulated shipping package together in an area where the ambient heat can raise temperatures into the perishable meat 'Danger Zone' is the worst thing you can do. It shortens your product shelf life and puts your relationship with the customer at risk.
How Long Will Your Seafood Package Stay Protected In Transit? It Depends.
Your insulated shipping package faces a number of challenges to consider when shipping frozen products, and all affect how long thermal protection will last to maintain your product expected shelf life:
- Varying Temperature Fluctuations: Temperature changes between your assembly location, the shipping carrier warehouse, transport vehicles, storage locations, and final destination affect how perishable seafood must be packed and shipped. It’s crucial to make sure the seafood shipping boxes you select are properly insulated to withstand these extremes.
- Rising & Falling Humidity: If you transport your seafood in humid regions, you know how challenging it can be to make sure your shipment stays cool.
- Spoilage Risk: This is a major challenge all seafood shippers face during the 'Cold Chain' logistics process of keeping your cargo safe from your hands to the shipper's care and finally into the customer's possession. Using quality shipping supplies such as a LoBoy Shipping Cooler and Insulated Shipping Supplies and Cooling Sources keep you well-protected from spoilage risks by protecting your shipment from the perishable 'Danger Zone.'
Being aware of the challenges you face as a frozen seafood distributor is important for taking the necessary steps to reduce your chances of a faulty shipment and make sure your seafood arrives fresh every time. The deciding factors to keep in mind are:
Styrofoam Shipping Cooler Quality - Use only a 'Thick Wall' EPS Foam shipping cooler!
LoBoy's foam shipping coolers are your sure bet thanks to better manufacturing processes that focus on quality. The LoBoy line offers higher per-cubic-inch bead density, leak resistance testing, independent lab testing, and more than 50 years of insulated shipping know-how put into every foam cooler.
Volume, Shape, and Type of Seafood Packaged
When your product is completely and securely wrapped for insertion into your Insulated Shipping Box, you need enough remaining room for cooling sources, moisture absorption, and filler materials.
The Amount and Type of Cooling Agent
Depending on the amount of product and whether it is frozen, you will adjust the amount of Gel Ice Packs, Dry Ice, or other cold sources to safely account for all factors during shipping.
For example, do you need as much to keep an overnight package properly chilled as you would a 2-day shipping package? The time saved on the overnight means less cooling agent required.
Method of Transport and Distance to Travel
FedEx, UPS, and USPS offer ways to ship seafood overnight, 2-day, and 'express.' A shipment going across a state has a lower thermal demand versus one going across the country.
Longer distance shipping needs to be approached differently because changing temperatures across hundreds of miles of changing postal zones will have a more significant thermal effect.
Weather Across Each Postal Zone to the Destination
Mailing your seafood shipments might see your product in 40° F in Wisconsin early in the morning and end up in 100° F sunshine by late afternoon moving through Texas. When you plan your shipping arrangements, account for geographical changes during transit.
How to Send Seafood by Mail Using a Styrofoam Shipping Box
When shipping fresh or frozen seafood, you’ll need to make sure you’re using a high-quality seafood shipping cooler. Most mail-order seafood is shipped using Styrofoam Shipping Boxes or Extra-large Styrofoam Shipping Coolers for bulk mailing as the most reliable insulation medium for sending a variety of seafood on long transit across multiple geographic postal zones.
The best commercial insulator for seafood shipping is a foam cooler made from EPS (Expanded Polystyrene). Most people refer to it in slang as a 'Styrofoam' cooler but it is not made of actual styrofoam, but EPS instead. EPS foam coolers are far superior for fast e-commerce shipping for five strong reasons:
1) Proven technology - tens of millions of satisfied customers can't be wrong. EPS Foam Shipping Boxes have been used for decades to deliver seafood right to the consumer so they don't have to book expensive trips to catch it themselves.
2) Lower Material Costs - EPS Foam Shipping Coolers are far less expensive from a business cost perspective than hardshell coolers and other high-priced material set-ups. Foam Coolers are so affordable that even mom and pop operations can easily use them without hurting the bottom line.
3) Lower Shipping Charges - Seafood shipping boxes made from EPS Foam reduce shipping costs because of their feather-light weight.
4) Superior Insulation - pound for pound, penny for penny, foam shipping coolers offer better insulation characteristics versus other materials like hard plastics, metal, and mylars.
Any manufacturer can make a heat-proof container, but how much will it cost you the business owner who has to watch your profit margins? EPS Foam Shippers strikes the perfect balance of protecting your insulated shipment and your bank account balance simultaneously.
Even more, they do not need to be 'pre-cooled' in and of themselves, unlike hard shell coolers that must be brought down in temperature to prevent affecting your product temperature. An EPS foam shipping box is always ready.
5) Reusable and Recyclable - Although EPS Foam Shipping Boxes can be re-used for years, they are also 100% recyclable when their usefulness is finally done. Trying to 100% recycle a $300 hardshell cooler is nearly impossible whereas a 'Styrofoam Shipping Cooler' will only cost a few bucks and do a better job while saving tons of money on shipping weight.
First, Choose Quality Insulated Shipping Supplies to Ship Seafood
When shipping fresh seafood and shellfish, the quality of your interior packaging supplies matters just as much as your exterior packaging. The following is a list of the additional supplies you'll need to go along with your thick-wall shipping cooler.
- Outer Corrugated Box - You'll need one or more Heavy-duty corrugated shipping boxes to hold and protect the interior Styrofoam Shipping Cooler during the trip. Seafood shipments get tossed around like any other package despite having 'perishable' or other caution labels. The cardboard box helps improve your customer's 'user experience' when they open an undamaged inner cooler to get at the delicious products inside.
- Heavy-duty Shipping Tape, 2" or Wider - You need to seal both the cooler and the outer box for physical and thermal solidity. Packaging tape is the perfect security measure to keep flaps from flapping and lids from lifting during any inconsiderate handling by shipping carrier employees.
- Plastic Wrapping or Bags - Cold seafood shipments naturally result in wetness through condensation and any slight melting that occurs. 2mm thick Plastic wrapping or bags helps protect the interior of the cooler for later re-use and prevents sharp and pointy products from poking through to damage anything else in the package.
- Rubber Bands, Zip Ties, or Clips - as many and of whatever size is necessary for the task of securely assembling your seafood shipment.
- Absorbing & Cushioning Padding - This kind of material helps soak up any wetness while also providing cushioning to make the ride a little easier on your cargo.
- Filler Material (Dunnage) for Filling Extra Space - Leftover space in the package can affect your thermal integrity and cause thermal protection inefficiency. Use old newspaper, butcher paper, packing peanuts, and other materials to serve as 'filler' for leftover space within the package.
Dunnage helps maintain thermal stability and keeps products from shifting around unnecessarily during transit. The filler should be lightweight to prevent added shipping costs due to excess weight.
- FedEx, UPS, USPS, or other Shipping Carrier Labels and required Regulatory Labels which may include:
- Carrier Shipping Label
- Hazardous Material Label (if required)
- UN1845 Dry Ice Shipping Label (when needed) as shown here at FedEx.
Verify with your shipping carrier if there are any special requirements for marking your outer package because of any special or out-of-the-ordinary contents.
Second, Choose Your Cold Source or 'Cooling Engine'
Rising ambient temperature in your seafood shipping box could potentially ruin your delivery, or lead to contamination that could impact your customer negatively, which could cost you and your company a lot of money (and frustration).
Typically, your cold sources will be either frozen Gel Ice Packs or Dry Ice, and in some cases, regular frozen ice, although regular ice is not recommended.
Temperature control is a major factor. If your shipments get too cold, your fresh seafood could freeze, leading to quality issues, in which case you might wish to avoid using Dry Ice.
On the other hand, some types of shipments must be kept well below freezing and require the use of Dry Ice or a combination of it along with Gel Packs.
The best way to decide which cooling agent (or combination) to use, and how much should go in each package is best determined by live shipping tests. You can test ship various configurations of products you expect to regularly send by mail.
You can narrow down exactly how to arrange your packages for maximum customer satisfaction balanced by excellent business profits. To do so, you'll literally test your configurations by sending out packages to measure how well they do across certain geographical postal zones and far distances,
Seafood Shipping Cold Source - Gel Ice Packs
Gel ice packs are a better choice than regular ice packs for shipping, as they are lighter and more cost-effective. Gel ice packs can also keep your contents cooler or frozen, depending on your needs. An additional benefit is that they can be reused year after year if well cared for.
Gel ice packs are able to keep your contents cool or frozen, depending on what you’re needing. Plus, Gel Packs are reusable for years with proper care. Refrigerant Gel Packs create a more cost-effective shipment because they’re much lighter than ice.
Plus, Gel Packs are versatile for both refrigerated and frozen products. Depending on your specific style of seafood delivery service, you may need to keep your shipments cold or frozen, and they can handle both.
Gel ice packs are the sure bet for keeping your seafood product well below the required 40 °F (4.4° C) maximum when using overnight or 2-day shipping. Use a Gel Pack with a minimum leak-resistant 4-millimeter refrigerant sleeve containing space-age, long-lasting, non-toxic refrigerant gel that stays frozen longer than ice.
Your other Seafood Shipping Cold Source - Dry Ice (CO2 - Carbon Dioxide)
Frozen Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is commonly referred to as 'Dry Ice' and has been a staple cooling agent for insulated shipping packages and meat in general for decades.
At around -109.3°F (-78.5°C), Dry Ice can be dangerous to handle with ungloved hands due to frostbite risk.
Do not make a super-tight seal around your cooler or outer box if shipping with Dry Ice. Frozen Carbon Dioxide (CO2) 'sublimates' (evaporates) from a solid back into a gas at a rate of around 5 to 10 pounds every 24 hours.
That rapid gas expansion needs a place to escape to. Leave some form of ventilation to prevent a CO2 gas buildup that could cause your package to 'explode.'
The proper ventilation can be achieved by NOT TAPING the cooler lid shut, but merely placing it normally atop the cooler bucket (bottom part). Also, when you tape the outer box, do not use an 'H' Pattern that completely blocks air from escaping the corrugated box.
Tape the box securely enough to prevent the flaps from opening, but make sure that there is some ventilation so CO2 gas can escape.
Safety Tip: Make sure the room you assemble your package in with Dry Ice is well ventilated to let escape any gas from CO2 evaporation.
Dry ice requires special labeling and procedures, so you'll need to verify with your carrier or airline to ensure your package is not rejected.
With Dry Ice, you pay for added weight but get super-cold protection for shipments that need it. Companies that use frozen carbon dioxide as a cooling agent should have someone on hand who is trained for it due to government regulations and shipping carrier rules.
Sources for Dry Ice Hazard Mailing Requirements:
- USPS (United States Postal Service) guidelines for Dry Ice Shipping can be found on the USPS Dry Ice Shipping Page.
- Federal Express (FedEx) guidelines for Dry Ice Shipping can be seen on their FedEx Dry Ice Shipping Page.
- UPS guidelines for Dry Ice Shipping are located on the UPS Dry Ice Shipping Page. UPS has special restrictions on more than 5.5 of Frozen Carbon Dioxide in a seafood shipment.
- IATA offers detailed information about Dangerous Goods Regulations to keep you up to date to prevent any issues.
Dry Ice can be used as a solo cooling agent or in combination with Gel Ice Packs. A combination is an option often used by shippers looking for a backup source that outlasts Dry Ice long enough to ensure there is at least one source keeping products cold after Dry Ice has evaporated.
Dry Ice and Gel Ice Packs are often used in combination so insulated packages have some added cold temperature fallback once Dry Ice has evaporated and there's still transit time remaining. Earlier, we suggested assembling your packages in a pre-cooled area so that your products don't start to thaw, but it also puts less demand on your cooling source.
Not recommended by any Shipping Carrier, but still used by some seafood markets and seafood companies for overnight delivery of fresh catches. Carriers recommend lots of extra plastic wrap and bagging, absorbent materials, and the like to deal with any unexpected meltwater and condensation. No shipping carrier accepts responsibility for damage done because of any water ice shipment.
Temperature Monitors or Temperature Data Loggers
Whether you use thermal tracking devices for testing purposes, or as a normal part of your meat shipping Quality Assurance Program, set them up prior to putting on and tape-sealing the shipping cooler lid. Companies who track closely keep inventory safer, problems fewer, and profits higher.*
10 Steps for Assembling Your Seafood Shipping Box Kit
Before you send your frozen seafood off on its next delivery, it’s important to understand how to properly pack and refrigerate it to ensure it arrives safely. Here are a few tips on how to efficiently pack your frozen seafood in a seafood shipping box:
Time Needed: 15 minutes
Total Cost: USD30
Shipping Supplies Needed:
How to Ship Seafood in Styrofoam Coolers
Step #1: Get Fresh or Frozen Seafood & Insulated Shipping Supplies Ready and Into Pre-Cooling Area.
Move the contents and supplies to the same location in an adequately cooled area set aside for the purpose of packaging your seafood items to be shipped. The list should include:
- Styrofoam Shipping Cooler & Outer Corrugated Box
- All Cooling Sources (needed amounts recalculated)
- Heavy-Duty Packaging Tape
- 2mm Plastic Wrap or Bags
- Rubber Bands, Zip Ties, or Clips
- Absorbing Material and Filler
- FedEx, UPS, USPS, or other Shipping Carrier Labels
- Hazard or Caution Labels (if needed)
Step #2: Wrap your meat product in two layers of 2mm Heavy-duty Plastic.
Place your seafood items in the 2mm plastic bags or wrap them securely in heavy-duty 2mm plastic built to handle that cargo. Holding it firmly, twist the top of the bag tightly to remove excess air. After that is complete, proceed to tie, clip, zip, or clamp the top to close it well, preventing it from untwisting.
Step #3: Line Shipping Cooler Bottom with Moisture-soaking Material
Put absorbent material along the EPS foam cooler floor to handle any residual wetness during transit.
Step #4: Place Cooling Source (or a combination thereof) to encompass the Frozen Meat,
Place your Dry Ice, Gel Ice Packs, or a combination of both within the Styrofoam Shipping Cooler to place your meat on top for a good fit without too much moving around. If there is leftover space, fill the gaps with the dunnage paper, packing peanuts, etc.
Once you line the cooler, add your cooling agents, whether Gel Packs, Frozen Carbon Dioxide, or an arrangement of the two beginning at the bottom (underneath your product. Place the seafood items to be shipped on top of the bottom cooling source.
Place coolants on all sides and (bottom and top, too) of your cold sources to evenly cover and surround your seafood products.
Step #5: Use Dunnage (Filler Material)
Fill up leftover space will Dunnage to prevent items from shifting around. Dunnage also adds a bit more temperature stability.
Step #6: Set up any Temperature Tracking Data Loggers
Strategically position Temperature Data Loggers and Trackers as recommended by the manufacturer before placing the cooler lid on and sealing with heavy-duty tape.
Step #7: With Heavy-duty Box Packaging Adhesive Tape, Secure the Shipping Cooler
Use box tape, 2" or wider, heavy-duty, to seal the shipping cooler lid airtight atop the cooler, along all four sides.
Step #8: Insert the Insulated Foam Cooler into the Heavy-duty Cardboard Shipping Box for a Snug Fit.
If using an insulated bulk shipping cooler like the LoBoy Super-Ice Extra-Large Shipping Cooler, arrange multiple shipping boxes in one bulk container with cushioning in between.
Otherwise, a single box & cooler combo should fit together nicely with little room to spare. If the cooler is smaller than the outer box, use filler paper, packing peanuts, or other dunnage to fill the space.
Step #9: Finalize the Packaging Process by Taping Shut the Outer Shipping Box in an 'H' pattern
Using a standard 'H' pattern, tape down the outer box so that the flaps stay tightly closed during normal handling and moving about during transport.
Step #10: Add Outer Box Markings and Labels for Shipping, Regulatory, or Caution
If using Dry Ice, put the following:
UN1845 Label with Carbon Dioxide Solid or Dry Ice in a clear display marking
The weight of Frozen Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Seafood Shipper's Name and address info
The Shipping Receiver's address & name info
The weight of Frozen Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Once the details of the outer box are ready, you can arrange for its pick-up or drop your packages off at your chosen carrier
These are the standard steps for packing and shipping seafood for insulated shipping by mail, whether as seafood subscription boxes coming periodically or single online seafood order shipping. The steps are similar across all major shipping carriers with just a few minor differences, which you can work out with their representative agents.
After Your Seafood Package is Shipped
Your shipping carrier should have provided a tracking number that you can use to keep tabs on your perishable shipment. Keep a close watch on the arrival time, especially if you're running an e-Commerce retail seafood shipping website where customer reviews are displayed. Once delivery is complete, it's time to engage your customer follow-up protocols and review encouragement, which hinges heavily upon how well you assembled your package.
That's How Easy and Simple Seafood Shipping is when you use Insulated Shipping Box Kits and Extra-Large Styrofoam Coolers for Bulk Seafood Shipping. When combined with the right kind, volume, and combination of Cold Sources as the centerpiece for protecting your products during mail order transit, you'll find this approach reliable and profitable.
For any assistance on your seafood shipping needs, the LoBoy Seafood Shipping Solutions Team is standing by to help with insulated shipping supplies. LoBoy Coolers can assist with package shipping tests to find the right combination and arrangement of coolers, boxes, gel packs, dry ice, and more to minimize your costs and maximize your profits while keeping your customers satisfied. Feel free to contact LoBoy Coolers with any questions related to your seafood shipping supply needs.
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