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Jaidyn Farar

Chocolate Shipping Guide: 6 Simple Steps

by Jaidyn Farar

Chocolate is one of the most satisfying (and versatile) sweets. Consumers will probably never stop wanting heart-shaped boxes of truffles on Valentine’s Day, samplers of dark chocolates from around the world, or decadent candy bars for a guilty-pleasure snack. 

If you’re thinking of adding chocolate to your ecommerce store, it could be an excellent move. In 2020, online chocolate sales made up more than half of online confectionery sales in the U.S., totaling 1.4 billion dollars. But before putting in an order to your supplier, make sure you have a plan for shipping chocolate to your customers. 

To ship chocolate the right way (and save recipients from a sticky situation), you’ll need to package it securely, add the right insulation and coolants, and understand what temperature range your products need to stay within. 

Why temperature matters when shipping chocolate

Why does it matter what temperature chocolate stays at during shipping? You might think the answer is obvious—if chocolate gets too hot, it melts. While that’s true, you should be aware of another potential pitfall you can run into: bloom.

What is bloom? 

Bloom is a common issue that alters the texture and visual appearance of chocolate, though it doesn’t affect the safety or flavor. Fat bloom and sugar bloom have different causes and effects. 

  • Sugar bloom. Sugar bloom happens when moisture dissolves the sugar on the chocolate's surface and evaporates, leaving behind sugar crystals. This moisture often comes from the condensation that’s formed when very cold chocolate warms up. The sugar crystals give the chocolate a dull, grainy appearance. 
  • Fat bloom. Fat bloom is the result of temperature fluctuations that cause the cocoa butter in the chocolate to separate from the cocoa solids and rise to the surface. When the chocolate gets warm and then cools down again, the fat (cocoa butter) solidifies in a different form, creating a whitish layer on the chocolate.

To avoid bloom, go for a Goldilocks situation. Chocolate shouldn’t be too hot or too cold, and it’s up to you to find the “just right” temperature range.

Which types of chocolate melt the fastest?

Different types of chocolate have different melting points depending on the ratio of cocoa solids, sugar, and milk. Though exact melting points will vary based on your unique products, you can use the following temperature ranges as baselines.

  • Dark chocolate. Chocolate with 86% or more cocoa solids has a melting point between 113 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Milk chocolate. Because milk chocolate has more sugar and milk than dark chocolate (it only contains 20-50% cocoa solids), its melting point is lower—between 104 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • White chocolate. White chocolate doesn’t contain any cocoa solids, and its melting point is between 100 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

Can you freeze chocolate?

Freezing chocolate before shipping isn’t a good idea. When very cold chocolate gets exposed to warm air, condensation can form on its surface. This moisture causes sugar bloom, which makes the chocolate look less appetizing. 

Instead of freezing chocolate, try using a wine cooler to store your chocolate in preparation for shipping. Since wine coolers don’t get as cold as a traditional fridge, they’ll keep your products from softening while avoiding the temperature fluctuations that cause sugar bloom. 

Now that you’re an expert on the proper storage temperatures of chocolate—and everything that can go wrong when temperatures get too high or low—let’s dive into the steps to ship chocolate to your customers.

How to ship chocolate 

As you’ve seen, the temperature of chocolate has a lot of nuances. But it’s not the only thing to consider when mailing chocolate to customers. Since chocolate can be fragile, you also need to package it correctly so it doesn’t get broken. And just like shipping any perishable food, you should ship chocolate quickly (within a couple of days) so it stays fresh. 

That’s a lot to unpack—we’ll break things down into more manageable steps. 

Step 1: Choose the right insulated packaging

To keep the chocolate within the right temperature range while in transit, choose a sturdy insulated box. The insulation can be made of many different materials, including polystyrene foam, biodegradable foam alternatives, cotton fiber liners, and paper. In addition to using an insulated box, consider adding a reflective liner to better keep your package cool. 

When selecting your packaging, remember that chocolate can be fragile. If it touches the sides of the box, or has space to move around in the package, it could easily be crushed. Fill up extra space in your box with filler material, preferably an environmentally-friendly option like shredded paper or biodegradable packing peanuts. 

If shipping during the warmer months, leave space in your box for cold packs that will prevent the chocolate from melting.

Step 2: Add coolant

Based on the time of year and package destination, you may need to add a gel cold pack to your package to keep it cool. If you’re shipping in winter, you might be able to forgo coolant. But if you’re shipping during the warmer months, you definitely don’t want to skip it. 

Make sure to add the proper number of gel packs to keep your chocolate cold during transit. This will depend on the length of transit, the size of your box, and the time the gel packs last. 

Step 3: Protect the chocolate from condensation

Remember sugar bloom? To avoid it, you need to keep the chocolate protected from liquid of any type. Wrap your chocolate in plastic so humidity from the environment and moisture from the cold pack don’t ruin it.

Step 4: Consider the unboxing experience

People often associate chocolate with luxury, special occasions, and romance. To make sure your product lives up to every expectation, think of ways to make the unboxing experience meaningful. When you go the extra mile, customers will remember your business and be more likely to buy again. 

The obvious first step is to make your chocolate’s direct packaging—the heart-shaped box, cardboard sleeve, etc.—look great. Next, try a few of the following ideas to add extra flair. 

  • Use branded materials. Try getting custom-designed boxes with your brand colors and logo printed on the inside. (To prevent porch piracy, avoid using packages that have branding on the exterior.)
  • Share information about sustainable packaging. Are your packaging materials recycled (or recyclable), biodegradable, or eco-friendly in another way? Share that information with your customers; try including an explanatory card.
  • Add a free gift. Include a freebie to show appreciation for your customer. You might give a sticker or a sample of another product.

Step 5: Ship quickly

Once your box is ready to go, it’s time to ship! For best results, stick with expedited shipping, either next-day or 2-day. This will ensure the chocolate reaches customers as quickly as possible, staying fresh during transit. 

For best results, ship chocolate near the beginning of the week—preferably Monday through Wednesday. If you send packages out near the end of the week, they could get stuck at a carrier facility during the weekend. 

Of course, next-day and 2-day shipping can quickly get expensive. Whether you absorb shipping costs yourself or pass them down to customers, you want to keep them as low as possible. To access the best rates, try a shipping API like EasyPost. With EasyPost, you can connect with large and local carriers, automatically find the most affordable shipping options, and easily generate shipping labels. 

Step 6: Provide accurate delivery times and updates

Imagine this: you’ve packed your chocolate perfectly. The box is exactly the right size, you’ve included insulation and cold packs, and you’ve shipped it using 2-day delivery so it will arrive as quickly as possible (before any temperature fluctuations can happen). 

Then, the package sits on a doorstep in the hot sun for hours, its contents melting more each minute.

To avoid scenarios like these, provide accurate delivery times to customers when they check out. This lets them plan for their delivery, making sure they’ll be at home when it arrives. Then, provide package tracking (EasyPost helps with that too!) so they receive notifications on their delivery’s status. If the package is early or delayed, they’ll be able to plan accordingly. 

Ship chocolate safe and sound

That’s all there is to it! As long as you plan ahead, choose the right packaging, understand how to avoid sugar and fat bloom, and ship quickly, your chocolate will reach customers looking and tasting great. 

For more shipping tips and strategies, check out our other resources!

And if you have questions about upgrading your shipping operations, feel free to get in touch with one of our logistics experts.