How hard is it to ship chocolate?
We live in a society that is long used to having everything cheap and fast.
After the giant Amazon set the standards, it is no longer acceptable to pay more than $10.00 for shipping and to wait more than 2 days for a delivery. We might have $130 worth of items in our online cart, but $5.99 shipping makes us question everything. And waiting inside the house for the postman is not a sweet experience anymore. It is only a pain in the butt.
How do chocolate companies face such high expectations while dealing with one of the most delicate items to ship?
Many demanding chocolate consumers are unaware of how difficult it is to ship chocolate and make sure it arrives in perfect conditions. As the 145 year-old fine chocolate maker Guittard Chocolate Company reminds us on its website, the softening point of chocolate is about 85°F (29°C) and the melting point is 93°F (34°C). Not the best premises to endure a thousand mile journey, especially to warm destinations.
No matter the high expectations of consumers, chocolate companies decide to prioritize the integrity of the packages over convenient prices and fast speed. It is important that the chocolate arrives intact and without flavor alteration rather than on time but bloomed, broken, or melted.
Based on this premise, successful chocolate companies are adopting specific practices and policies to insure a smooth shipping process.
After going through the shipping policies of 15+ successful brands, from the industrial Ghirardelli, to the gourmet L.A. Burdick and the artisan Letterpress Chocolate, here are some important pieces of advice useful for all chocolate professionals that have to deal every day with the nightmare called shipping chocolate.
- CHOOSE THE BEST DAYS
Chocolate won’t last more than 3 days in transit.
The time between the order is processed and the delivery is completed has to be as short as possible. This is why many chocolate companies only ship on Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday and avoid weekends and national holidays.
Orders placed after the first 3/4 days of the week are strictly postponed to the following week. This is essential to not let the delicate packages sit in the courier’s warehouse with the chance of a dangerous switch in temperature.
- CHANGE SHIPPING PRACTICES AND PRICES DURING SUMMER & WHEN CONSIDERING HOT DESTINATIONS
Many chocolate companies charge an extra $10.00 between the months of May and September, or when the package has to reach a warm location. This surplus covers the gel packs, dry ice, foam sheets, and other insulating material to prevent the heat from reaching the chocolate inside the package.
Another practice is to avoid charging extra for shipping, and increase the prices of the chocolate itself. During warm months some brands also suspend the shipping of specific product lines (usually bonbons) due to their great delicacy that won’t be able to endure the trip.
- INFORM CUSTOMERS
Customers have to be aware of the difficulties in shipping chocolate.
They need to be given valid reasons to why shipping is expensive and why they can’t order/receive their chocolate whenever they want. It’s important to share as much info as possible in the Shipping Policy page that every company should have on its website. With kind explanations, customers will be more patient and understanding (for example, you could share this article with them on your FB page).
- REJECT (ALMOST) EVERY RESPONSIBILITY
Chocolate companies decline any responsibility for broken/unattended/lost/stolen packages. Many are the passages of hands and temperatures before the package arrives at destination. Once it is verified that the chocolate was packaged with accuracy, there is no further step that the company can take to ensure the integrity of the package.
However, it is good practice to remind the customers a couple of things: to make sure that somebody will receive the package at the time of delivery (to avoid that the package fails the delivery or gets left melting outside the door), and to consider the weather at destinations when choosing shipping options.
- GIVE SHIPPING OPTIONS AND STATE THE RELATIVE PRICES
Once customers get well informed, companies usually offer different shipping options to be selected on their website. These include the mention of the courier’s name and a chart that shows the prices for distance traveled and preferred times of delivery.
Due to the perishable nature of chocolate, the two most popular modalities are OVERNIGHT and 2nd DAY shipping. For temperatures at destination of 70°F (21°C) or for medium/long distances, overnight delivery is usually suggested, and ground shipping shouldn’t be included among the options.
More good practices:
- chocolate companies DO NOT ship to P.O. boxes.
- no signature is required at the time of delivery.
- a tracking number MUST be provided to the customer.
- earlier ship dates are suggested for holidays and busy seasons.
Chocolate is a complex product to ship. Especially when fresh-made, artisanal and free of preservatives, the challenge is even tougher. But it doesn’t have to be a total nightmare.
Using the tips above, the process of shipping chocolate becomes smoother, more transparent to the customers and drama-free.
What other good practices would YOU suggest to ship chocolate properly?
I did NOT get paid and did NOT receive any kind of favor for writing this article. These are my honest opinions at your service.