Make Sure Your Savings Don't Perish With Your Perishables

A recent article over on Inbound Logistics on Cutting Costs When Shipping Perishables had some great tips on how to reduce your perishable related costs while shipping. This post will cover them, and provide some more tips for reducing perishable related costs while also increasing your sustainability.

All ten tips were good, but the following five were very good and often overlooked:

  • Know the seasonality trend in the regions you source from.
    This will allow you to adjust your shipping patterns to take advantage of excess capacity in advance.
  • Become a C-TPAT member.
    This expedites the release of your cargo, which is very, very, very important when shipping perishables. Sometimes it only takes a few extra hours on a truck on a scorching hot day to ruin a shipment.
  • Include ALL commodities to be imported on a single USDA import permit.
    Not only does this save time and money, but it minimizes the chance of a permit being lost and the entire truck held up for one item!
  • Purchase an annual bond.
    Not only does this save time and money, especially if you'd file a lot of single entry bonds otherwise, but, along with C-TPAT membership, it shows you are a serious, regular importer of these goods and not a fly-by-night operation which might exist only to smuggle drugs in the citrus boxes.
  • Do not load produce at night.
    When it's easy for insects and other pests to get in unnoticed. Not only can a family of spiders ruin the grapes, but they might be illegal in the company you're importing into, which would result in your truck getting stopped at the border and turned around.

Other ways to save money include:

  • Always home-source during harvest season.
    Unit prices might be higher, but shipping will be lower, and loss will be lower still as you won't risk losing product in long shipments, which happens regularly when trucks break down and/or get held up at the border. Plus, many people will pay a slight premium for local produce.
  • Know the seasonality for key staples in every region, not just the ones you generally source from.
    This will make sure you're always sourcing from the region with the most supply, which will help you to get you the lowest costs as you will be able to negotiate better unit prices and secure transportation in advance when prices are low.
  • Always import full trucks.
    With the current cost of fuel, shipping adds a considerable cost component, so you want to minimize it as much as possible. This may require an optimization solution as you have to figure out whether to:
    • order more of a seasonal item to fill the truck, and then make sure an appropriate special is offered by sales to insure the extra units are sold before they perish
    • rebalance out-of-season items from one locale to another - i.e. you would normally buy oranges from Argentina, but moving the order to Mexico during banana season will fill the truck
    • order more of an out-of-season item with a longer life span, keep it properly refrigerated, and increase the length between orders
  • If the perishables will be processed, re-optimize the processing network.
    If you're going to can, freeze, or otherwise process the perishables into a less perishable product, do it as close to the source as possible, even if it means using new suppliers or investing in new manufacturing plants. These refined products, which are typically denser, and which may not even require refrigeration, will be much cheaper to ship and suffer a lesser risk of loss.
  • Have a plan to sell excess perishables once they reach their prime before they perish.
    50% off at the store is not always good enough, especially if they are marked down an hour before closing on a Tuesday night and will not be saleable tomorrow. For example, even overripe, tomatoes are still great for pastes and soups. You could have each store strike a deal with local restaurants that allow them to buy perishables at prime at a discount before they are unuseable, or, if you are socially responsible, setup a donation program with a local shelter or soup kitchen where the shelter can pick up perishing items each day before close before they perish (and take your cash with them). Done right, you could probably even get a charity tax write off (as long as the items were donated while still edible). You may consider these ideas beyond the scope of sourcing, but you shouldn't when you consider that 1 in 7 people in the world are undernourished and almost 40% of food is wasted in North America. Fix this. You have the power.

 

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