Sep 23, 2019 Last Updated 6:31 AM, Nov 9, 2017

In Transit

Tips to keep your chocolate transportation sweet.


From cookies and double-fudge brownies, to snack bars and chocolate-covered fruit and nuts, chocolate continues to be a popular flavor choice in many products to satisfy sweet tooths around the world. But, like many of the things we enjoy in life, it usually has to travel great distances to reach us.

Chocolate comes from cocoa beans, the dried and fermented seed from cocoa pods, a fruit that originated in the tropical forests across Central America. Today’s chocolate network is much more global. Many countries with wet and warm climates similar to where the bean originated have become chocolate-producing countries, including Peru, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Ecuador and  Brazil, as well as African countries such as Nigeria, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.

Because of the long distances chocolate and its related products must travel to reach  consumers, it is very important for both large companies and smaller artisanal chocolate businesses to keep in mind various key points to assure their product arrives safely and in perfect condition.

First, chocolate companies must do their due diligence to identify a logistics provider that understands the product and how it should be shipped. When transporting chocolate, especially high quality chocolate, it is crucial to transport it using temperature monitored packaging to prevent external factors such as extreme heat or extreme cold from spoiling it. For this reason, companies in the chocolate business need to partner with a logistics provider that is highly experienced in temperature control transportation.

Pictured here (from left to right) are Jannie Davel, head of air freight and Andreas Krueger, head of ocean freight for DHL Global Forwarding, Americas.

Chocolate can be a very unpredictable product that, if handled incorrectly, can be seriously damaged. For example, there are different packaging requirements to keep the product fresh and prevent it from melting or freezing, depending on the time of year. In the summer months, it is recommended to place the chocolate product with a gel pack inside an insulated container to prevent it from melting, while in the winter, the product will need to be transported in a container with a double-walled heating unit to make sure it doesn’t freeze. In other cases, to prevent condensation damage, the product must be placed in an insulated package on skids or stacked on wooden pallets to keep it off the floor, then be wrapped with a plastic covering.

Second, when transporting chocolate, companies should look for a logistics provider that not only has control and visibility through one phase of the supply chain, but also has end-to-end visibility until the product reaches the shelves. Since chocolate is produced in various countries around the world, the journey to the consumer can be very long and might involve ocean, air or land transportation. For this reason, the chosen logistics provider should be well experienced in temperature control variation; it should be able to monitor and adjust the temperature of the package as it moves through different parts of the supply chain process.

By being able to monitor at each phase, businesses can rest assured that whether their product is moving from a truck onto a ship or from a plane to a truck, the package will remain at the appropriate temperature and safe from external factors.

Lastly, with countries constantly updating their customs regulations, it is important chocolate product companies have a customs broker to consult with before transporting their shipment internationally. Shipping consumer products such as chocolate can be tricky, and smaller companies may not be aware of food regulations, such as having to register their product in the destination country in order to sell there. With a trustworthy customs broker, consumer companies can rest assured they will comply with all regulations, policies and procedures, therefore preventing any delays in their supply chain.

When it comes to choosing whether chocolate should be shipped through air or ocean, the answer varies. For less than container load (LCL) shipments, air is usually the only option, but keep in mind it is usually more expensive and should be used mostly for urgent or high value shipments. If a company has a quantity large enough to fill a full container load (FCL), ocean freight may be the best option, coming at a more affordable price. If trucking is what is needed, companies will have to research their options because there are not many less than truckload (LTL) temperature controlled trucking options, so, air and ocean may be the only options.

Additionally, some companies may need warehousing services, for which they will need a logistics partner that can provide cold rooms with temperatures ranging from 59°- 62° F (15°- 17° C). It is also essential that the chocolate product customer inform the logistics company of the various products being shipped and which, despite not needing refrigeration, are temperature sensitive. Whether customers need warehousing, ocean freight, air freight or trucking, it is important they be specific with their logistics partner as to how the product should be transported or stored, including at what temperature and for how long. The logistics provider is there to assist the customer and meet its needs, but in the end, the customer is responsible for setting the standards for their product.

Having a comprehensive understanding of how to ship chocolate is crucial as the chocolate industry continues on strong. According to Euromonitor, Canada is expected to spend more than $67 per person on chocolate in 2015, while the U.S. predicts more than $56. Between 2010 and 2015, chocolate value sales has increased in North America by 4 percent, which could be in part because the West is buying higher quality chocolate. With this much demand, chocolate producing companies need to be prepared, and partnered up with a reliable logistics provider ready to help get the product from tropical forests to consumer hands.

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