Fresh-Cut Freight: Shedding Light on the Logistics of the Floral Industry

The nation’s 2nd highest gift-giving holiday is fast approaching and retailers and shippers alike are kicking it into high gear. According to the US Census Bureau, there are more than 23,000 florists in the United States! Flowers account for 70% of all gifts bought each year on Mother’s Day.

With such essential perishables on-board, you may wonder how these delicate tokens are transported from their origin to your mother’s hands. The inventory must be kept cool and in constant motion, creating a complex logistical approach to any supply chain. One day lost in delivery can equal 10% of the effective floral shelf life, limiting the opportunity for the re-seller to sell the product.

The journey begins with the snip of a stem – the clock is ticking to get the flowers to their destination. The majority of flower supply stems from Colombia and Ecuador. Christine Boldt, Executive Vice President of the Association of Floral Importers of Florida describes the supply flow after being placed immediately in a refrigerated truck for transport to a cool warehouse at the airport, “They go through a process we call ‘pre-cooling,’ in which any warm air that might be trapped in the box is vacuumed out. That allows the flowers to cool faster than they would if we simply left warm air inside the package.”

Fresh-cut Freight: Shedding Light on the Logistics of the Floral Industry, Mother’s Day 2012
Fresh cut flowers experience pre-cooling and are released to the warehouse, where shipments are broken down and shipped to their destination. Source: http://bit.ly/LXlMz2

Following the “pre-cooling,” the blossoms travel through the center of the U.S. flower distribution system: Miami International Airport (MIA). MIA houses approximately 2/3 of the supply (about 35,000 – 70,000 boxes every day) with huge spikes in volume around Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day! In an effort to challenge Miami International Airport’s market dominance, California-based Mercury Air Group’s opened a 12,700-square-foot refrigeration facility at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

Once packages arrive, they are inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS); ensuring the flora is free from harmful pests and diseases can take up to four hours. Fortunately, only two percent of shipments are labeled non-compliant under APHIS regulations. After the flowers receive the “green light,” the next step is another pre-cooling and release to warehouse, where shipments are broken down and shipped to an international location or placed on refrigerated trucks for domestic distribution. The flora can reach any city in the US by truck in less than five days.

Retailers are the final link in the cut-flowers supply chain before reaching your mother’s hands. Retailers include traditional florist shops, online stores, supermarket chains, roadside vendors, gas stations, drugstores, etc. Supermarkets account for nearly 40% of our flower sales and are steadily increasing sales throughout the slower parts of the year.

From harvest to retailer, perishables are a challenging transport, but 3PLs are here to help. BlueGrace® Logistics offers freight shipping services and solutions that aid in simplifying the supply chain process. Our dedicated representatives provide complete consult in helping shippers choose the best mode of transportation as well as the right carrier for their needs. Our customizable transportation management system, BlueShip™, provides detailed visibility of time-sensitive shipments so you’re always aware during transit.

We know the importance of on-time delivery. Whether it is flowers or materials, let BlueGrace® handle the logistics while you manage your other critical business operations. Contact a member of our team for a free, customized freight quote today!

If you’re involved in the shipping process of flowers, please add your input! Do you work in the floral industry and have any tips to share? Let the community know by commenting on our blog!

Happy Mother’s Day!

-Jennifer Masters, Business Information Analyst
Twitter: @BG_JennyD

 

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