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Why You Should Use Cool Packs for Shipping Food

Imagine having a meal kit or other chilled foods, only to find the items inside have spoiled or had a strange odor because of improper temperature control. Fortunately, cool packs are a viable, low-cost option for maintaining consistent temperatures inside shipping boxes containing food, beverages, or even pharmaceuticals. Shipping temperature-sensitive foods can be problematic if you do not understand some of the process’s nuances, or the solutions available to give you peace of mind your perishable items maintain their integrity during storage or transit.

Benefits of Cool Packs for Shipping Food

The ability to maintain the proper temperature for perishable items is of the utmost importance when shipping long distances. However, this is not the only benefit of using cool packs for shipping food and other perishable items. Some of the benefits include:

boxes

Cost-efficient

Cold packs can be single-use or multi-use solutions that are less costly than refrigerated vehicles for active packaging solutions. More carrier options and lower carrier costs also become available when using cold packs instead of refrigerated vehicles. Single-use gel packs are typically lower cost, disposable solutions and great for shipping products where a lower margin, open loop distribution is in play. Reusable gel packs can be cleaned and reused multiple times, lowering your cost per use. They tend to cost a bit more, but are made with thicker PE materials, better for the environment due to their reuse, and are great for closed distribution systems where the gel packs can be returned and cleaned for reuse over and over. Regardless, both types of gel packs may be recyclable and lower your costs versus active solutions or refer vehicles.

Cost-efficient

Cold packs can be single-use or multi-use solutions that are less costly than refrigerated vehicles for active packaging solutions. More carrier options and lower carrier costs also become available when using cold packs instead of refrigerated vehicles. Single-use gel packs are typically lower cost, disposable solutions and great for shipping products where a lower margin, open loop distribution is in play. Reusable gel packs can be cleaned and reused multiple times, lowering your cost per use. They tend to cost a bit more, but are made with thicker PE materials, better for the environment due to their reuse, and are great for closed distribution systems where the gel packs can be returned and cleaned for reuse over and over. Regardless, both types of gel packs may be recyclable and lower your costs versus active solutions or refer vehicles.

shipping food

Decreased temperature damage

When you want to keep a perishable product from freezing, cool packs are the best option for shipping because they are typically water-based, making the melting point around 32 degrees Fahrenheit, so they don’t reach freezing temperatures like dry ice. Hence, reducing temperature damage to products that are sensitive to freezing, such as some pharmaceuticals and fresh foods. These cold packs are ideal for products that need to be maintained at a consistent temperature.

Safe and environmentally friendly

Cold packs are a safer alternative to dry ice and foam bricks when shipping food. Compared to dry ice—which is considered a hazardous material in the U.S.—cold packs can be manufactured with non-toxic and/or biodegradable contents, making some environmentally safe to dispose of down a drain or septic system. Additionally, cold packs will not harm or damage the skin, while dry ice must be handled with extreme caution (and by a trained individual with protective gear) because it is hazardous. If dry ice comes in contact with skin, it can lead to severe frostbite and possible hospitalization.

Extended temperature coverage

For products with tighter temperature hold times or wide geographic locations, cold packs are a great option. If required, they can also supplement dry ice to help slow down the sublimation process, resulting in cold packs prolonging the life of dry ice—if used—and extend coverage for frozen products during transport.

Multifaceted travel and more carrier options

Cold pack solutions, such as gel packs, can be shipped anywhere, even across borders. Travel regulations for cold packs are less restrictive because most are non-hazardous, unlike dry ice, which cannot ship via USPS ground transport and other characters.

Considerations When Using Cool Packs for Shipping Food

It may seem evident that goods need keeping at consistent temperatures; however, there are some factors you should take into consideration first. Cold packs rely on several methods to keep goods fresh and maintained during transport, including:

Regulations and compliance

Cold chain guidance is determined by a series of guidelines and regulations governing temperature-controlled shipping and storage. Meeting compliance requires defining gaps in applying these standards to your cold chain and considering what measures to be taken to guarantee temperature stability is maintained during transport and storage.

Several governmental organizations define vital standards, including:

  • American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM)
  • Cold Chain Logistics Committee
  • Health Canada
  • Healthcare Distribution Management Association (HDMA)
  • International Air Transport Association (IATA)
  • International Conference on Harmonization (ICH)
  • International Safe Transit Association (ISTA)
  • Parenteral Drug Association (PDA)
  • Standard Test Methods
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  • United States Pharmacopeia

Types of cold chain packaging

To maintain consistency in temperature-sensitive foods, consider the packaging appropriate when using cold packs. Common types of cold chain packaging include:

  • Active systems: Active systems maintain the correct product temperatures via power from an energy source, such as a battery or integrated into the vehicle, combined with thermostatic control. No phase change materials (PCM) or gel packs are used in active thermal systems.
  • Passive Systems: Commonly using PCMs (gel packs, gel blankets, etc.) are the most cost-effective and basic shipping systems of the three. They are also the most common. No battery or external power source is required for a passive packaging system.
  • Hybrid Systems: To maintain proper product temperatures, hybrid packaging systems use a combination of PCMs and external power.

Selecting the appropriate refrigerant for your needs

The refrigerant’s most crucial role is to keep the cold in and the heat out and maintain consistent temperatures. However, you must also consider the type of perishable foods you are shipping to determine which cool pack solution is right for you.

  • Gel Packs: Gel packs are often used for food shipments due to their low cost, reliability, and size. Depending on the shipping requirements and method, gel packs can either begin in a frozen, ambient, or refrigerated state before transport. There are standard, single-use, antimicrobial, moisture resistant, and drain safe versions of gel packs based on the user’s needs.
  • Gel Blankets: Flexible even when frozen, gel blankets are durable and can accommodate varied box sizes and shapes. These packs can also fit in the sides and tops of insulated shippers and pan carriers and be cut to fit the shipment’s custom size and shape.
  • Hard Bottle gel packs (PCMs): An advantage of hard bottle gel packs is they can maintain their shape when the gel inside melts. Similar to gel blankets, they can reduce empty space inside a shipping container to keep perishable items from moving around excessively. Ideal for larger shipments when weight or tight packaging spaces are required, hard bottle gel packs are typically not used for food shipments because they are more expensive.

Rapid Aid Solutions

While it is imperative to understand the types of technologies available to you for shipping temperature-sensitive foods, it is more important to choose the right company for your cold chain packaging needs. Rapid Aid customers consistently choose Rapid Aid for their ability to deliver:

  • Cost-effective solutions
  • Custom-focused innovation
  • High-quality products
  • Assured compliance
  • End-to-end support

For more information on Rapid Aid’s commitment to our customers, contact one of our sales team members today.

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