From the Outside In: Packing Tips for Perishable Products

If your business is in the retail food industry, you likely have spent countless hours perfecting your product. But how much time has been spent on planning effective packaging?

Creating effective packaging for perishable products requires an in-depth understanding of your distribution process, the environment in which you ship the product, and what common challenges you will face. Taking time to thoroughly research and perform ample trial-and-error testing reduces the risk of damaged product and dissatisfied customers.

PeriShip has been managing perishable product shipping for nearly 20 years and gained valuable insight into the proper packaging requirements. PeriShip embraces a preventative approach to successful packaging, and through our learning series, we will take you through our recommendations and best practices for packaging, From the Outside In.

We will start on the outside, with a look at exterior boxes, work our way in for a review of internal packaging, and finish with a crucial element, the coolant. First off, the outer packaging.

Strong Outer Packaging

The exterior of the packaging is the first defense you have against the many unforeseen circumstances that can occur during shipping, including drops, extreme temperatures, conveyor-belt travels, vibrations, and much more. As such, the outer packaging should be comprised of a heavy-duty corrugated box that is chosen with two primary factors in mind:

R-Value – This is the package’s ability to minimize the heat flow within the package. R-value is a number, and the number is based on per inch of insulation. The higher the number per inch of insulation, the more it will resist heat, thereby creating longer hours in transit and also become one of the key factors in avoiding condensation. A single-wall cardboard box will only provide a minimal R-value, while coupling a cardboard box with an EPS container will do a better job at protecting the perishable products within it.

System R-value for containers*

Insulated Container Average R-value
Corrugated box 1.05
Corrugated box with foam panels 1.66
EPS container with lid 2.00
Polyurethane foam molded container 2.56
Foil-laminated box with mylar bag insert 1.91
*Burgess, G. and Singh, J. (2008), Performance comparison of thermal insulated packaging boxes, bags, and refrigerants for single-parcel shipments.  Packaging Technology and Science, 21:25-35.


Container Size – Choose a container size that eliminates any vacant space. Empty space is a perishable package’s biggest enemy, as it makes the product more susceptible to vibrations and shocks, which can result in damage to the container and the product.

Whenever possible, it is best to place an order in a single large box.  This not only gets the most favorable per-pound rate but also increases the overall mass of the shipment and decreases void space.  The large the mass, the longer it will hold temperature.  In addition, the cost of shipping one box will be less than shipping two or three smaller boxes.

Additionally, we encourage to place an extra strip of tape around the box to ensure the bottom is properly supported.  If you use strapping to secure your boxes, make sure the strapping is tight and covered by tape going in the same direction.  If the strapping is not tight and completely covered by tape, the conveyor belt systems at the FedEx sorting center will not handle the box within their regular sorting parameters, and it can result in the box being pulled and handled as a non-conveyable package, which can lead to longer sorting times and delays.

PeriShip can also advise you on optimization of coolant ratios, utilization of thermal packaging, and how to ensure your package survives drops and lateral impacts.  Stay tuned to future blog posts for a deeper dive into the box! Next up: Strategic Inner Packaging.


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