If there’s one thing we at Tangle Chocolate have learned a thing or two about during this record-breaking summer heat, it’s how to ship chocolate. We thought we’d pass on our tips in case you find yourself curious about what we do or want to deliver your own perishable goods to someone near or far.
Choose the Right Box
You want there to be as little air space in the box as possible, so choose a box that holds your goods snugly after you’ve taken into account the extra room that insulation and ice will take up. We usually need to go one size up from our winter shipping box sizes. Also, the thicker the box, the better, because the added wall thickness helps hold in cold air. We use slightly more expensive heavier weight boxes for summer shipments.
Line the box with insulation. You can purchase pre-formed metallized bubble wrap insulated box liners from a place like Uline. This is the easiest option and will cost $2-5 per box depending on the size of the box (starting with a 7” cube). Alternatively, you can buy rolls of the same metallized bubble wrap and make your own box liners. The cost is about the same because it’s a labor-intensive process to make liners by hand. Soft and rigid foam also work and weigh about the same as the bubble wrap (the lighter the box, the less expensive the shipping costs). Unfortunately, not all cities and towns accept insulation for recycling, even the non-foam ones, so at Tangle, we reuse as many supplies as we can to reduce the amount that ends up in a landfill. There is insulation that can be recycled with paper, but the smallest size it comes in is for a 10” x 10” x 10” box (too big for Tangle’s needs) and the least expensive size costs about $10 per box lined.
If you make your own insulated liners, be sure to tape every seam to reduce air leakage. Also be sure to further insulate the box by taping all of the seams of the box.
Ice, and Insulate More
Next, add cold packs that are thoroughly frozen. There are two kinds, plain cold packs and moisture-resistant cold packs which cost more but absorb condensation and may keep your perishables in better condition, depending on what you’re shipping. If you are shipping small boxes, make sure that the cold packs you buy fit into the boxes. At Tangle, we use moisture-resistant cold packs and bend some of them before putting them in the freezer so that they will fit into our smallest shipping boxes.
It seems natural to put the cold pack(s) on the bottom of your shipping box with your perishables on top of it. But remember that cold air sinks, as we learned in middle school. So, while a cold pack on the bottom of the box is a good idea to create a barrier against hot surfaces that the box might go on during shipping, if you’ve room for only one cold pack in the box, put it on the side or top. Use as many as you need, but remember that each extra cold pack increases the weight and therefore shipping cost.
Fill any remaining space left after your products are in the box with crinkle paper or peanuts or other fill of your choice—the less air, the better. Tape the box closed and then be sure again that all seams are taped.
Put the entire package in the freezer or refrigerator for several hours. Alternatively, if you have room, store your empty shipping boxes and insulation in the fridge.
Ship at the Last Minute
Remove your cold packages and put them in insulated bags or boxes for the trip to the post office or UPS facility. Find out the pick up schedule and get your packages there as close to pick up time as you can.
Choose Expedited Shipping
We are finding at Tangle that USPS is much slower than UPS for local and regional deliveries, but it’s about the same for longer distances. FedEx is another choice. Find out which carrier does best in your area. In any case, we almost never ship regular ground during these hot weeks. You’ve gone to all of the trouble and expense to carefully package your precious chocolate or other perishables, so why risk it?
Now you know what to expect to see when you receive a package from Tangle and why it’s so hard to get to the chocolate (we tape the entire insulated liner closed :-))! We promise, though, that your hard work opening the box will be rewarded by all of the deliciousness inside. Enjoy!