Live plants and animals, medicines, food items — they all have to be kept within a certain temperature range to keep them viable during shipment. And that means you shouldn’t just chuck them in a box and hope for the best.

You’ve got to pack your temperature-sensitive items with cold or warm packs to keep them in the right temperature range. Use a temperature sensor to monitor the temperature of sensitive items in real-time throughout the cold chain, and make sure you use a reputable freight carrier that knows how to handle temperature-sensitive items. Choose the fastest shipping method you can to ensure your sensitive items don’t hang around in the supply chain too long, and if you’re shipping live animals or plants, or hazardous items like dry ice, take the appropriate precautions.

Use Cold or Hot Packs and Insulation

Cold or hot packs are the best products to use to make sure that your temperature-sensitive items remain within an acceptable temperature range throughout shipment. Dry ice is still used to keep items cold in shipment, but it shouldn’t be used with food items or fresh flowers. Since it’s considered a hazardous material, you’ll need to make sure you’re compliant with your carrier’s rules for shipping it. You can usually ship packages containing dry ice with the USPS, as long as you mark the outside of the package with a dry ice label. FedEx and UPS may also allow you to ship packages with dry ice, but make sure to verify their requirements for safely shipping dry ice before you proceed. And since dry ice releases carbon dioxide as it “melts,” you’ll need to make sure your package has some ventilation to let the gas escape. 

Dry ice isn’t your only option for keeping items cool in shipping. You can use a reusable refrigerant gel pack to keep your items cold. Line your package with styrofoam sheets or place your items in a styrofoam cooler and with the cold packs, and then place the cooler in your box. If you need to keep your item warm during shipping — such as you would when shipping live animals or plants at certain times of the year — use a hot pack instead and add insulation as needed to keep the heat in.

Add a Temperature Indicator

A temperature indicator may not be necessary for all temperature-sensitive items, but it’s definitely a good idea for things like food or medicine that could be compromised if they get too hot or too cold. A simple temperature sensor attached to the outside of the package can let the recipient know if the package exceeded its recommended temperature at any time during transit. You can also get real-time temperature indicators that will alert you if a shipment is in danger of overheating or freezing.

Choose a Carrier that Knows Their Stuff

This is not the time to go with the cheapest service provider. Use a reputable shipping carrier that knows how to handle temperature-controlled items. The USPS is a reliable carrier for live animals like poultry, reptiles, scorpions, and bees, or other insects. FedEx and UPS can also handle most temperature-controlled shipments, like fresh flowers, food products, and live plants. But for really important and sensitive items, like medications, biological samples, or lab specimens, you should choose a reliable carrier experienced in moving that kind of freight.

Get It There Fast

You don’t want your crate of day-old poultry or your fresh flower arrangement to be left sitting in a warehouse all weekend. Your shipments need to reach their destinations as quickly as possible so they can arrive in the best possible shape. Pay for overnight shipping or at least get priority shipping. It’s worth the extra money to make your customers happy and make sure any live plants or animals you ship will still be alive when they reach their destination.

Be Careful with Live Animals, Plants, and Hazardous Materials

Dry ice is considered a hazardous material, which is why you need to mark the package with a dry ice label if you’re using it to keep something cool in transit. Some kinds of potentially hazardous materials, like biological material and medical samples, may require the attention of a specialized carrier, as your ordinary carriers may not want to handle them. When shipping live animals, make sure to follow your carrier’s instructions for packaging the animals carefully. Always send live animals overnight if possible, and send them on a Monday, so they won’t get stuck somewhere over the weekend. For live plants, buy special shipping containers designed to keep the plant still in transit and protect it from damage.

Temperature-controlled items aren’t as hard to ship as you might think. With a little insulation and a cold or hot pack, you can easily keep items at the right temperature as they move through the supply chain. Customers will love that you took the time to protect their items.

Richard is an experienced tech journalist and blogger who is passionate about new and emerging technologies. He provides insightful and engaging content for Connection Cafe and is committed to staying up-to-date on the latest trends and developments.