Fruit and Vegetable Transportation: A Comprehensive Guide

Jul 29, 2023

Consumers expect to be able to buy strawberries in November in Sweden, but they rarely question how those strawberries appear in their remote supermarket. Fruit and vegetable transportation is behind every exotic or seasonal fresh product you can grab off the shelf at any time of the year.

Fresh fruits and vegetable transportation across countries and even continents has become a norm. People love to have fresh produce available at any time, and they also expect the products to be ripe, and, goes without saying, unspoiled. To ensure that, we’ll look over fruit and vegetable transportation processes, proper packaging, trends, recommended vehicles and more.

Let’s get to it.

What Makes Fruit Transportation Quality So Important?

Logistics play an essential role in ensuring fruit and vegetables reach their final destination in their best condition. Studies show that 80% of fruit and vegetable loss happens in the transportation link. Packing the goods properly, allowing good air circulation, and ensuring the best transportation conditions such as certain temperatures and humidity are crucial.

Ensuring the best supply chain quality is important for many reasons, such as:

  • Reducing waste – according to The International Food Policy Research Institute, fruit and vegetables account for the largest food waste and loss, which is 31.5% of production. This negatively impacts our climate, international food security, and the sustainability of global food systems.
  • Adhering to quality regulations — fruit and vegetables must comply with food safety and quality requirements to be allowed on the European market. These requirements cover various aspects, such as fruit and vegetable handling, packaging and transportation.
  • Maintaining business reputation — poor quality products can have a negative impact on consumer satisfaction and harm business reputation resulting in lost profits.

High-quality fruit and vegetable transportation can help reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, food waste, food loss, and promote sustainable supply chains. All of that, while helping businesses maintain a good reputation and increase profits. Sounds like it’s really worth investing in proper fruit and vegetable transportation, right?

Main Challenges of Shipping Vegetables and Fruits

While investing in a high-quality supply chain is important, it may not be as straightforward as we wish. Here are the main challenges to consider when shipping fresh produce:

1. Keeping the produce fresh

Ensuring that the products remain fresh during transportation is essential. However, during the summer months, when temperatures are high, this can be a real challenge.

Fresh products must be shipped using refrigerated transport services. Fresh air can ensure products don’t get spoiled, so transportation should have a fresh air vent, and the packaging must be appropriate.

2. Selecting the best packaging

All transporters must ensure their fruit and vegetables are properly packed for shipping. For example, sturdy fruits with hard skins such as apples and citrus are easier to transport. But softer fruits like plums, peaches, and grapes must be handled with extra care. Proper packaging can absorb shocks and vibrations that occur during transportation.

Packaging must also protect produce from temperature changes. Depending on the produce, you may want to consider choosing between wooden pallets, plastic crates, or plastic containers.

3. Loading, unloading, and handling

It’s important to pick a reliable carrier for your fruit and vegetables. The vehicle must not be overloaded as this can damage the goods. Some carriers overload their trucks to make more money, but that can bring irreversible damage to the transported goods.

You should also know what other goods are being shipped together. Why? Each fruit releases a different amount of harmless gas called ethylene. The gas can cause certain fruits to ripen and spoil quicker. So fresh fruit such as tomatoes and peppers must be kept separate from products that release large amounts of gas.

4. Avoiding impact damage and spoilage

Transportation inevitably causes shocks and vibrations that can damage fresh products. The only way to avoid bruises and premature spoilage is to pack and load products properly.

Damaged or spoiled products become food loss as they are very unlikely to sell. And that’s if they’re lucky enough to even make it to the shops.

5. Maintaining cold chain

Cold chain logistics or cool cargo, deals with temperature-sensitive produce such as fresh goods. It allows for the safe transportation of perishable produce while ensuring it doesn’t get damaged by temperature changes while travelling from the pick-up location to its final destination, such as retail points.

Latest Trends and Developments in Fresh Produce Logistics

The global fresh food market is expected to grow and reach nearly 4 billion USD by 2027. Growing competition in the field drives the industry to develop new and innovative solutions that respond to consumer demand. Food supply chain digitisation is a must since end-users demand secure, contactless, and quick deliveries of fresh produce.

These demands cause various challenges in the storage, shipment and logistics of fruit and vegetables. New technologies emerge in the market that can help meet the growing demand and solve the challenges.

Route optimization and other technologies that use real-time data help shippers and carriers collaborate and find solutions that benefit all parties. Companies like Spotos, a self-service freight forwarding platform that uses the latest technologies to offer simple and easy-to-use logistic solutions, are changing the game for many companies. Spotos offers a real-time dashboard, which can help logistics managers stay on top of the freight delivery.

Industry leaders agree that fresh produce logistics should focus on resilience, visibility, and sustainable operations. All these goals can be reached by embracing trust and collaboration, which are also at the core of Spotos’ mission.

Great Vehicles for Shipping Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

The type of vehicle for transporting fruits and vegetables will depend on the specific items you need to ship.

Most fruit and vegetables need to be transported in refrigerated vehicles – reefers or refrigerated trailers. These trucks or refrigerated containers let in fresh air and get rid of various gases, such as carbon dioxide, which can cause premature spoilage of fresh produce. Cold air circulates inside the truck ensuring optimal humidity and moisture level to keep the products fresh.

Reefers contain various components, such as:

  • Condensers that help the air circulate.
  • Fresh air vents that let the fresh air in.
  • A unit evaporator, which maintains moisture and high humidity levels.
  • Fans that also circulate the air.
  • A control unit that makes sure all the relevant levels are intact.

All these components enable temperature control, which helps keep the freight as fresh as possible.

How to Package Fruits and Vegetables For Shipping

Proper packaging is essential for protecting and preserving produce during transit. It can help protect goods against shocks and vibrations that occur during transportation, and ensure proper fresh air flow.

Choosing suitable packaging material can help against premature spoiling and bruises. We listed some of the most popular packagings in the food industry and named their features:

  • Plastic pallets are hygienic, resistant, and resilient to extreme temperatures.
  • Wooden crates are more expensive and relatively heavier than plastic alternatives, but still often used for transporting specific goods such as bunch grapes and crops.
  • Plastic bags allow for easy inspection of the containers, the material and bagging costs are low.
  • Wire-bound crates are rigid, sturdy, and have high stacking strength.

Some of the widely-used packages are unsustainable and create a lot of waste. For this reason, recyclable and biodegradable materials are becoming more and more desirable.

While it may appear that fruit and vegetables can be packaged as it seems appropriate but in reality there’s little creativity or personal touch in the process. Each type of goods has rigid standards for packaging, even if sometimes those standards are unofficial.

It’s also important to note that packages must be labelled for easy identification. Labelling requirements in the EU determine what information must be mentioned on pre-packed foods.

How to Choose the Right Vehicle Temperature for Fruits and Vegetables

Temperature is a very important factor in fruit and vegetable transportation. Maintaining suitable temperature, light exposure, and humidity levels during the shipping process will ensure your products stay fresh. On the other hand, temperature fluctuations can significantly affect the product’s shelf life.

According to the Logistics Bureau, fresh produce spends up to half of their shelf life in transit between suppliers and retailers. This means that quick and secure transportation is essential for fresh produce. But how to ensure it?

Different fruit and vegetables require individual transportation temperatures. Here are ideal reefer temperature ranges for some foods:

Fruits and vegetables Temperature (°C)
Apples -1.11 – 4.44
Bananas 13.33 – 14.44
Blueberries 0 – 1.67
Broccoli 0
Cauliflower 0
Celery 0
Cucumbers 10 – 12.78
Garlic 0
Grapes -0.56 – 0
Kale 0
Lemons 11.11 – 12.78
Mangos 10 – 12.78
Nectarines 0.56 – 0
Oranges 4.44 – 7.22
Peaches 0.56 – 0
Sweet potatoes 12.78 – 15.56
Spinach 0


How to Find a Reliable Refrigerated Shipping Service for Fruits and Vegetables

Since most fruits are seasonal and fresh vegetables can easily get spoiled, partnering with a shipping provider that can ensure an efficient solution is a must.

When choosing a transportation provider, pay attention to these factors:

  • Track record and recommendations.
  • Network coverage.
  • Experience.

If you’re still in search of the best partner, Spotos has everything you may be looking for. A large refrigerated vehicle fleet, a huge network in Europe, real-time tracking, and other features that will let you rest assured your shipment is in good hands.

Fruit and Vegetable Shipping FAQ:

How Do You Transport Fresh Fruit?

Fresh fruits are transported in refrigerated trucks or shipping containers.

How Do You Keep Fruits and Vegetables Fresh During Transport?

Appropriate packaging, cold airflow and proper ventilation, careful loading, and limited truck loads can ensure fruits and vegetables stay fresh in transit.

What Is the Best Way To Transport Fruits and Vegetables Internationally?

The best way to transport fruit and vegetables internationally is in refrigerated trucks, so-called reefers.

What Is the Cold Chain for Fruits and Vegetables?

Cold chain logistics ensure that fruits and vegetables are kept within a specified low-temperature range from production to end-user consumption.

Which Fruits Are Stored in Cold Storage?

Some of the fruits and vegetables that prefer cold storage are apples, citrus fruits, pears, carrots, and beets.

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