If you run a small neighborhood bakery with a social media presence, you may find yourself besieged with requests from far-flung family, friends, and fans to ship your products across the country -- or even across the world. While fulfilling these requests can significantly increase your market share, you may be worried about your ability to maintain product quality during the shipping process. Fortunately, with some planning and preparation, you should be able to provide baked goods to a nationwide audience at a low cost. Read on to learn more about the shipping options that can ensure customer satisfaction without costing you an arm and a leg.
What should you do to preserve your baked goods prior to shipping?
Your first step should be to determine which products in your inventory you're comfortable shipping. Delicate baked goods like tiramisu, baklava, or frosted cupcakes may be difficult to ship without damage (or climate control) -- on the other hand, durable bakery products like cookies, bars, brownies, and dense cakes and breads can last for days in just about any environmental conditions with minimal (if any) damage.
Even the quickest shipping methods won't save a durable baked good if you don't properly prepare it before packaging. First, ensure that your product is completely cool before packaging it -- packaging warm bakery products can trap moisture, leading to yeast and mold growth within just a few days. Packaging your items in plastic or other air-tight containers can also be a mistake, as the temperature fluctuations experienced during the shipping process can trap moisture and condensation on the inside of the packaging.
On the other hand, packaging a cooled product in cellophane or another breathable product can keep it fresh for a week or more, ensuring your product will be delicious on arrival even if your customers choose a standard shipping option.
Depending upon the moisture content of your baked goods, you may want to place a small absorbent substance within the packaging. Just as placing a piece of bread in a container of brown sugar can keep the sugar from drying out, so can a small square of bread or sponge cake keep your larger cakes fresh.
Finally, you'll want to ensure you're packaging each item in the most efficient way possible (without compromising freshness). This can often mean wrapping items individually, although bars or brownies can often be sealed in an aluminum tin for freshness without requiring much extra wrapping. By choosing a tin that's lightweight and within the dimensions of the least expensive flat-rate shipping box, you'll be able to ship for an extremely low cost to just about anywhere in the country.
What are the best shipping options for your baked goods?
If your local pricing structure and postal services permit, shipping items to arrive the next business day is usually your best bet. This can ensure freshness without incurring hefty overnight shipping charges. You'll want to adjust your schedule to ensure you're able to meet the various shipping deadlines imposed on you as an interstate shipper; missing the deadline by just a few minutes could mean your product won't be delivered for an additional 24 hours, affecting its freshness and taste.
Depending upon the scale of your bakery, at some point, you may want to hire a shipping consultant or logistics planner. Having someone to fulfill one of these roles can allow you to focus your time and energy on baking, rather than finding the least expensive way to ship your product. Because these consultants are customer-facing, they can provide you with the valuable feedback you need to further improve and refine your shipping process without requiring you to sift through pages of irrelevant complaints.
For additional advice, contact a company that specializes in food packaging.