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Temperature-controlled logistics and fulfillment: The ins and outs of DTC prep for cold storage items

a box and 2 pints of ice cream

Tackling the intricacies of temperature-controlled logistics can be daunting — so much so that some 3PLs avoid it entirely. However, in industries such as food, beverages, and biopharmaceuticals, mastery of cold storage prep and shipping is a necessity.

We’ll walk you through the basics of these complexities and how to navigate them to ensure your temperature-sensitive goods are handled professionally and efficiently.

The basics of temperature-controlled logistics

A recent Forbes study found that 61% of shippers outsource cold storage and warehousing to some degree. This is primarily due to the significant costs of maintaining temperature-controlled logistics, which includes special equipment and established processes for temperature-sensitive items, such as…

Temperature monitoring

Shelf life and temperature ranges can vary drastically from product to product. They usually fall into two main segments: chilled and frozen goods. However, products can fall anywhere within that range, making it impossible to keep everything at one average temperature. You must establish a process for keeping track of acceptable temperature ranges to reduce waste and regulate temperatures 24/7.

Regulatory compliance

Complying with local, state, and federal safety regulations is crucial for preserving the safety and quality of perishable goods. One such statute is the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which requires shippers to complete temperature reports and maintain documented sanitary practices.

New regulations are proposed all the time, so be sure to check them regularly to stay updated and in compliance.

Equipment and insulation

The type of storage used has a massive impact on the quality of cold goods. You can choose from various refrigeration equipment like refrigerated containers, blast freezers, cold rooms, or pharmaceutical-grade cold storage.

The goal is to keep temperatures consistent and prevent exposure to outside elements, so do your research to select the right type of unit for your cold goods.

MyFBAPrep utilizes various state-of-the-art temperature control equipment to ensure products are stored at consistent temperatures and free from exposure to external elements.

The art of cold packaging

Packaging cold storage items requires great care, as mishandling can lead to diminished product quality or spoilage.

Cold packaging is the beginning of a product’s life outside of its storage unit. The greatest challenge at this stage is ensuring temperatures stay within an acceptable range and preventing external factors like humidity from ruining the item.

Mishandling at this point can have disastrous results, such as changing a product’s flavor, consistency, or other elements that reduce quality (and potentially hinder you from selling the goods). When it comes to packaging, you need to stay on top of the following factors.


Opt for lightweight, heat-resistant packaging, such as styrofoam boxes, foam planks, insulated liners, or insulated pads. Also, consider water-tight plastic bags that help keep products dry, packing materials that hold items in place, and outer corrugated boxes that offer extra protection. The general rule of thumb is to prepare for a transit time of around 30 hours.


Gel packs and dry ice are the most common refrigerants used in cold shipping. However, dry ice can be difficult and costly to work with because it’s considered a hazardous material. It also can’t be used in airtight packages and must meet various requirements. Wet ice isn’t a recommended alternative because it’s heavy and melts.


How you layer and seal your packages could be the difference between safely transported products and spoiled goods. Ensure your coolants are evenly distributed when putting together your packages so no portion of the shipment is at risk of falling below safe temperatures.

Aside from securing your products, you must account for possible leakage and perspiration. Double-bagging, absorbent pads, or cellulose wadding can help combat those potentialities.

Special requirements

You’ll need to affix appropriate labels to your packages, such as dry ice labels, expiration dates, dietary claims, and “Keep refrigerated” stickers.

If you sell on third-party marketplaces like Amazon, you may also be required to provide information like the shipper’s name and the location where the contents were grown or manufactured.

How to ship cold items

Shipping cold and frozen goods poses substantial challenges. Even with perfect packaging and storage, improper shipping methods can lead to unhappy customers and lost revenue.

So, before you ship your products, you must develop a dependable strategy and solidify certain elements.

1. The right carrier

First and foremost, find a reputable carrier. With an experienced partner, you won’t have to worry about shipping delays, mishandling, or other rookie mistakes while trying to meet tight delivery deadlines.

FedEx, UPS, and USPS are all good options, although FedEx may be the most appealing because of their FedEx Temp-Assure services. If you’re a high-volume seller, you may be able to negotiate with your carrier for special, discounted pricing.

Or, you can take advantage of a 3PL’s connections, like MyFBAPrep: They collaborate with these and other reliable carriers to obtain the best rates for their clients. You’ll also enjoy optimized shipping times so your temperature-sensitive goods reach their destination safely and promptly.

2. Perfect timing

Timing is everything in cold-chain logistics. Some perishable items may be able to last several days in transit, while others will only make it 24 hours. As such, it’s best to pick your carrier’s fastest shipping option that’s still cost-efficient for your business.

You should also send your shipments early in the week so your deliveries aren’t delayed over the weekend. If you’re approved to sell perishable items via Amazon FBA, you’ll have to deliver shipments to your FBA warehouse at least 90 days before the expiration date (Amazon will dispose of anything within 50 days of the “best by” or “sell by” dates).

3. Plan according to temperature

It’s not uncommon to ship food frozen with the expectation that it’ll thaw and be ready to eat by the time it arrives at a consumer’s doorstep.

If this is your strategy, you’ll likely need to employ refrigerated containers (reefers) during transit and strategically plan your shipping routes to minimize the risk of spoilage.

Wrapping up — Run temperature-controlled logistics more smoothly

Navigating the world of temperature-controlled logistics is far from easy. These deliveries are always on a time-crunch, meaning you need tight planning for your packaging, timing, and routes — otherwise, you could end up with ruined goods that cost you revenue and erode your business reputation.

However, you can remove some of the headache of the process with MyFBAPrep’s comprehensive solutions and team of dedicated experts. From regulatory compliance to perfect packaging, we’ve got you covered. Contact us today to transform your logistics process, from cold shipping and beyond.

Published: Nov 18, 2021
Updated: June 12, 2023