[Updated July 3, 2019]
Summer heat is again upon us and many companies may well be into their planning for heat-related shipping. Summer deliveries are a unique challenge for the food and beverage industry, particularly when it comes to wine shipments. Ship during Summer and the heat can easily spoil an entire truckload of goods if you do not plan appropriately…
…delay, and you’ll be postponing shipments of those tasting room and wine club orders. Who wants to wait four months for their order?
UPDATE: Since we first wrote about this topic in February 2016, and again in 2017, we’ve received a lot of hits on this article – and had a lot of conversations. Naturally, it’s a topic that comes up every year… but things change, and it’s time to take a fresh look at Summer delivery options.
So what options currently exist for summer deliveries? And what are the pros and cons of each? Here is a quick look at the most common alternatives:
Warehousing Inventory in Multiple Locations
Ice Pack Shippers
Ice pack shipping has been the traditional way of maintaining a package’s temperature during transit. There are a variety of ice pack choices available depending on your product’s temperature needs.
Ice Pack Shippers: the Pros
- Helps maintain a consistently cool area around the product
- Can be used from any shipping location
- Ice packs can stay with the product up through “the last mile”
Ice Pack Shippers: the Cons
- New shipping boxes needed
- The Ice packs can be costly in and of themselves
- Increases the bulk of packages, which can increase the cost of transportation based on dimensional (DIM) weight.
Update 2017: Ice pack shippers are evolving just like many packaging options, and they work well with ground or air shipping methods. But be careful because not all styrofoam molds are the same and certain ice packs can ruin labels. A 3PL can help you know how to correctly pack with them.
Warehousing Inventory in Multiple Locations
A second option lets you reach distant customers via ground shipping more quickly by warehousing some stock in a second, more central location. For example, Copper Peak offers warehousing and shipping from both our Napa Valley fulfillment center and our centrally located St. Louis facility. This also means that your products spend fewer continuous trips in potentially hot trucks.
We discuss the option of multiple facilities at greater length in this post. With considering warehousing in multiple locations for summer deliveries, keep in mind the following:
Multiple Locations: the Pros
- Decrease shipping time without paying for air freight
- Faster delivery to market while improving the customer’s’ experience
- Use of ice packs shippers can be added for additional protection/ peace of mind
Multiple Locations: the Cons
- More lead time needed for sending products, packaging, and marketing collateral to the additional location(s) unless you are sourcing products close to that location
- Production forecasting for kit builds and order processing will be needed for all locations
- Inventory management and movement will need consistent attention
FedEx Cold Chain
Your third option is with FedEx Cold Chain service from California. Packages are picked up by FedEx Custom Critical Transportation and delivered to their consolidation point and mixed with other FedEx Cold Chain clients. Packages are arranged by recipient zip code location and are placed on FedEx Custom Critical, temperature-controlled, line haul trucks to be delivered to any of six different FedEx hub locations around the country. Cold chain can be used in conjunction with FedEx Delivery Manager or the FedEx, “Hold at Location” (HAL) services.
FedEx Cold Chain: the Pros
- Closely monitored temperature-controlled line haul vehicles
- Live tracking through FedEx.com
- Packages deliver via the FedEx Express Delivery Network, typically by 10:30am, to beat the summer heat
FedEx Cold Chain: the Cons
- More expensive than ground service (though a little less than the typical FedEx 2Day air service)
- Follows a once-weekly pickup/ delivery schedule.
- Reroutes, redirects, address changes will delay shipments and keep packages from delivering in a timely manner
Update 2017: Last year (2016) we saw a significant number of shippers investing in the cold chain service offering. We predict that this option will become even more common this year. Wineries that use it may well earn a competitive advantage.
A fourth option to consider is zone skipping. This is where a shipper consolidates many individual packages, holding them until the number of items reaches a full truckload. Those items are then sent together from one zone (location) to another. For example, Shipping from Napa Valley/ Sonoma Valley might be in UPS/FedEx Zone 2, while New York is in Zone 8. Shipping directly from Zone 2 to Zone 8 via consolidated truckload would be zone skipping. From New York, the shipments would be inserted into the UPS/FedEx network and ship from that location’s zone to the delivery recipient zone. This will change a zone 8 shipment to a Zone 2 or Zone 3 shipment. The idea is to eliminate small package movements one at a time and insert a consolidated move of many packages across the country for potential savings. Copper Peak calls this the Zone 78 program.
Zone Skipping: the Pros
- Orders can be processed for each hub location drop in batches for bulk load onto pallets
- Great for pre-kitted club shipments
- Reduces Zone 7 or Zone 8 moves from California to Zones 2 or Zone 3 from an eastern hub facility
Zone Skipping: the Cons
- There is no tracking visibility until a package is scanned at the forward hub location
- Zone skip packages often take up more space and require additional pallets/trucking to move the same amount of volume than case goods
- No ability to add ice packs at forward hub locations
Hold at Location (HAL)
Even if your warehousing and LTL transportation is temperature controlled, the final mile of delivery presents another problem entirely. Alcohol shipments require that an adult over the age of 21 sign for the shipment, which means delivery attempts can fail the first (or second, or third) time around. Multiple redelivery attempts in a hot truck can be just as damaging to wine as a single shipment cross-country.
How does a winery shipping DTC get around this? In some markets, FedEx offers hold-at-location (HAL) services. These provide the option of having packages routed to any of over 14,000 FedEx HAL locations nationwide (with an additional 6, 500 HAL locations expected by the end of 2020). Some of these are FedEx offices, and some are third-party locations.
With HAL, you and the customer can rest easy knowing packages will sit in a secure, air-conditioned location until the recipient comes to get it (up to five days). This eliminates the possibility of multiple delivery attempts, where the package could be sitting in a hot truck.
FedEx also offers a vacation hold option using FedEx Delivery Manager, in which they will hold a shipment up to 14 days upon request.
Again, HAL and vacation hold options are only available in some markets, so check with FedEx before advertising this option to your customers.
As a last ditch effort, you can always put orders on hold during the hottest times of the year. Your customers won’t likely be happy with the delay, but better to have an order arrive late and safe than have it arrive spoiled.
The decision to put a weather hold on your product is not an easy one; we discussed the decision process at greater length in a previous post. If you would like to walk through the business case for weather holds, we would be happy to do that with you as well.
If you would like to discuss these options in more depth, contact us on the web or call 707.265.0100. We would be happy to consult on the best ways to save your wine!