Food Shipping? Best Practices for the Holiday Peak Season

Holiday food shipping best practices during peak season

Responding to food shipping trends requires practices that ensure the food arrives on time and in good condition, with extra challenges for fresh foods. Improper shipping of food items can lead to foodborne illness, rotten food, inventory management issues, unsatisfied customers, and reputation concerns.

While shipping food has complexities at any time, peak season makes these more complicated. Nonetheless, shipping holiday-related foods is widespread during peak season. Shippers must prepare properly to send food items during the upcoming holiday rush.

What Is Food Shipping or Fresh Food Shipping?

Food shipping is as simple as sending a product to a customer. Fresh food shipping involves foods like refrigerated and frozen goods, produce, or foods with a short shelf life, such as fresh bread.
Yet, the reality of shipping food is more complex, encompassing the logistics processes of getting food to the customer while keeping it in good condition for consumption. This is particularly complex with fresh foods, which need to arrive before they spoil, yet other types of foods can also become unsafe in certain conditions.

Therefore, food shipping refers to moving food from different places, such as a farm or food processing center, to the customer. A carefully planned supply chain with route optimization, collaboration, and risk management is essential to execute shipping foods properly, and technology paves the way for these steps to happen effectively.

A Look at the Thanksgiving and Christmas Fresh Food Shipping Landscape

The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays alone create an enormous amount of fresh food shipping added to an already packed peak season shipping situation. For instance, turkey for holiday meals shows the complexity of the holiday fresh food landscape.

Americans consume more than 46 million turkeys for Thanksgiving and 22 million for Christmas. Ninety percent are frozen with a longer shelf life, and 10 percent are fresh with a 21-day shelf life. This holiday situation creates the need to send turkeys around the country, with different methods for frozen and fresh turkeys. Shipping fresh turkeys require much more planning and scheduling to ensure timely delivery.
The process involves farmers, distributors, retailers, carriers, and more to ensure the turkeys properly move through the supply chain. Turkey is just one piece of the holiday food shipping puzzle. There are plenty of other holiday food shipments, which include other meal preparation items and food gifts.

Best Practices and Tips for Fresh Food Shipping this Peak Season

The following best practices can help ensure the freshness of food deliveries.
Pack Fresh Food to Ship

Start by planning the best methods for packing fresh food, including choosing the right shipping materials. Fresh food should always be in new boxes. Pack the boxes with containers, bubble wrap, fruit netting, or other measures to protect the type of food within from losing its integrity. Plan ways to insulate frozen foods. Use cool packs and insulated materials for small shipments; covers and blankets for large orders.

Think About Traceability & Cold Chain Custody In Advance

Before the shipment, you should think about the traceability of the package and ways to avoid temperatures that could harm the food. Cold chain custody provides a supply chain method that controls food temperature through refrigerated storage and transportation.

Use a Robust TMS

A robust transportation management system (TMS) enables you to execute better fresh food supply chain management. You can use it to track and trace your shipments, improving the visibility of progress and helping you ensure timely delivery. These systems support the entire process, including cost management automation, customer communication, and risk mitigation.

Use a TMS to Optimize Routes for Efficient, Fast Delivery

Quick delivery is essential to food shipping, especially with fresh foods. Too much time in transit leads to overripe peaches, spoilt seafood, etc. Optimizing transportation routes makes the route from point A to point B more efficient, leading to a more timely delivery – for every shipment. TMS functions make it easier to optimize routes.

Integrate the TMS with Other Systems for Better Inventory Demand Planning

You can best plan your fresh food logistics by integrating numerous systems with the TMS for optimal planning. For instance, integrate warehouse management systems, resource planning systems, and other systems. The integration provides maximum access to big data, allowing for optimal analytics and insights for decision-making.

Ship Quickly with Precision

Shipping quickly is essential for fresh food, as timely delivery is the key to quality food upon arrival. Using big data and a TMS allows you to be more precise about shipping quickly and strategically to get the best results.

Calculate your potential Saving While Using an enterprise TMS

Create an Efficient Shipping Network

Fresh food shipping is one of the challenges many shippers will face this holiday season. Following the best practices we laid out, which include shipping technology, can improve results for fast, effective delivery of foods with a short shelf life. In addition, setting up a digital freight network makes it easier to find carrier capacity and create relationships, helping ensure timely delivery. Read our MercuryGate eBook to learn more about digital freight networks.

Learn more about the value MercuryGate TMS offers food and beverage shippers operating in the fresh logistics space:
  • Omni-modal coverage with global reach.
  • True end-to-end optimization.
  • Prioritized exception management.
  • Advanced accessible business intelligence.
  • Built-in carrier management.

Download our brochure to find out how MercuryGate’s transportation management platform is designed to help shippers navigate seasonality, manage perishable inventory and find capacity with special equipment needs.

Find out how MercuryGate TMS supports Food Logistics

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