Shipping Frozen Food – USPS vs UPS vs FedEx

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Food and meal delivery companies are growing in success by offering quick and painless meal delivery for those customers that want a healthy and delicious meal without the cooking time involved. Grocery delivery and other similar businesses are a growing market. 

When it comes to shipping frozen food, time is of the essence. This may be obvious, but for many of these types of eCommerce businesses, choosing the best shipping option can make or break the success of your business. You will not only want to find a fast shipping option but a cost-effective one as well. With so many shipping companies out there, it is a good idea to do some research to find the best option for you. Here is what three of the main shipping companies offer for shipping frozen food.

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Shipping Frozen Food – USPS

Unfortunately, USPS shipping does not offer any specific refrigeration services. You are able to send frozen food with them at your own risk, however. You will need to use one of their faster shipping options and make sure that the package is packed properly, preferably in a polystyrene box with ice packs or dry ice and wrapped with a plastic mailing wrap. It must be packaged well enough to prevent any leaks and or odours. 

You are able to purchase insurance for the items but it will not be paid if the contents spoil even – if it is not delivered on time. It is recommended to use USPS Priority Mail or USPS Priority Mail Express services to send any perishable items. Using dry ice is prohibited from USPS International Mail but is allowed domestically. 

USPS Priority Mail delivery is 1-3 business days and offers flat rate shipping with pricing starting at $7.70 and you are able to ship packages up to 70 lbs. USPS Priority Mail Express is next day to two-day delivery and it also has flat rate shipping with prices starting at $26.35 and allows packages up to 70 lbs.


Shipping Frozen Food – UPS

Shipping frozen food is allowed with UPS but packages must also be packed properly to prevent thawing and leaks. They recommend using a shipping service that has a maximum shipping time of 30 hours, keeping track of the shipment and also letting the recipient know when to expect the package. 

UPS shipping offers both UPS Next Day Air and UPS 2nd Day Air which are the two best options when it comes to shipping perishable items. Since dry ice is considered a hazardous material, you are restricted from using more than 5.5 lbs of dry ice when shipping by air. The UPS Next Day Air service guarantees delivery by 12 pm to most addresses and prices start at $32.09. The UPS 2nd Day Air service offers guaranteed two-day delivery to the entire continental U.S. and Puerto Rico and prices start at $20.24.


Shipping Frozen Food – FedEx

Same as the UPS and USPS, there are no refrigeration options in FedEx shipping as well. When sending frozen food with FedEx, packages have to be packed properly to ensure they stay frozen and do not leak. They also recommend using a shipping option that does not take longer than 30 hours for delivery. The best shipping services to use with FedEx are FedEx First Overnight, FedEx Priority Overnight or FedEx Standard Overnight.

All overnight services are guaranteed next-day delivery but vary from early morning delivery to afternoon delivery and prices start at $28.24 for Standard Overnight, $30.31 for Priority Overnight and $60.31 for First Overnight. 


A few tips for shipping frozen food

Getting frozen food purchases to your customers can be tricky. It’s important to ensure these perishable items stay within a certain temperature range as even a small amount of time outside of this optimal temperature can cause food poisoning. Here are a few things to keep in mind when shipping frozen items.

  • Pre-cooling the box you are shipping in will keep items frozen longer.
  • Use dry ice if you absolutely require food items to remain completely frozen. Only use dry ice when shipping domestically.
  • Use frozen gel packs when shipping food items that need to remain within the temperature zone of 32 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Although gel packs will become moist as they defrost, they will last much longer than dry ice.
  • Do not touch or handle dry ice without the proper gloves and do not allow the food items you are shipping to come in contact with the dry ice. You should separately wrap each item in the event that they shift while in transit. 
  • The fewer items are able to move while in transit, the better, so ensure everything is packed well.

Choosing to start an eCommerce business that includes frozen or perishable items shouldn’t be held back by shipping. With so many express shipping options offered by most of the top shipping companies (USPS, FedEx, and UPS particularly), any business can meet their needs and grow quickly. Be sure to do your research about the best options that may suit your business instead of what may be available or the least costly. The last thing you want is to pay more in the end because you didn’t think your decision through. 


Shipping frozen food is tough but completely doable. PluginHive allows eCommerce merchants to directly streamline their shipping process right from cart to doorstep through real-time shipping prices, tracking options, automation of shipping labels and more. Learn more about integrating PluginHive into your Shopify, WooCommerce, or another eCommerce platform by reaching out to our customer support team.

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