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Transporting and Warehousing of Chocolates: 6 Steps for Success


closeup of chocolate bark squares

If there's one indulgence that transcends borders and cultures, it's chocolate. The global love affair with this richly flavored confection has made it a multi-billion-dollar industry, with major brands shipping popular products worldwide. However, transporting and warehousing chocolates requires keeping a close eye on storage temperature and humidity levels to ensure products arrive on store shelves in pristine condition. Here’s a look at the ins and outs of chocolate logistics best practices.

An Overview of the Transporting and Warehousing of Chocolates

Before we dive into the details of chocolate logistics, let's take a moment to appreciate the sheer scale of the chocolate industry. Chocolate is big business, with the global market estimated at $1.11 trillion in 2023.

Global demand requires a global supply chain. Chocolate confections may originate from anywhere and be shipped across the world. For example, a leading chocolate brand might begin its journey from a factory in Germany to a shipping hub in Dubai and then to a retail store in Vietnam. The varying temperatures and humidity of these different regions emphasizes the need for a perfectly optimized cold chain.

Chocolate is considered relatively easy to ship compared to other perishable goods, primarily due to its resistance to humidity. However, the ease of transport doesn't mean there aren’t challenges in chocolate shipping. Maintaining ideal conditions throughout the journey is crucial to preserving the quality and integrity of the product.

What Are the Optimal Conditions for the Transporting and Warehousing of Chocolates?

Chocolate warehouse temperatures should be between 54-68°F (12-20 °C), most optimally in the range of 65°F-68°F. However, the optimal temperature varies depending on the type of chocolate (as we’ll discuss below). In addition, relative humidity should be kept below 50% to prevent issues like sugar bloom (when chocolate takes on a white, dusty texture on the surface). Careful monitoring of both temperature and humidity is particularly important when temperatures approach the condensing temperature — the point at which water vapor in the air turns into liquid.

But temperature and humidity aren’t the only storage considerations. Proper air circulation is essential to prevent chocolate from absorbing unwanted odors, and shielding chocolate from direct light exposure helps ensure it arrives at its destination in perfect condition.

Storage Temperatures for Different Kinds of Chocolate

The amount of cocoa butter, milk, and other ingredients present in a particular type of chocolate can impact its shelf stability. Let's break it down by chocolate type:

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate contains the highest percentage of cocoa butter, which solidifies at a higher temperature than milk fat. As a result, dark chocolate can tolerate slightly cooler conditions and is more stable at the lower end of the optimum storage range — 54-68°F (12-20 °C) — than other types of chocolate.

Milk Chocolate

The transportation of dairy milk chocolate requires slightly more care than dark chocolate. Milk chocolate is more sensitive to temperature changes due to its higher milk content. It's best stored within the same temperature range as dark chocolate but is less tolerant of temperature excursions.

White Chocolate

White chocolate is the most sensitive chocolate type because it has the lowest cocoa butter content. It can be stored in the same temperature range as other types of chocolate but requires continuous monitoring to ensure conditions remain stable.

Packaged Products

When it comes to chocolate-based products, the specific requirements vary based on the type of item. For instance, chocolate bars have different humidity and temperature needs compared to baked goods like cookies or waffles, which are more likely to develop texture issues at high humidity levels. Meanwhile, chocolates filled with nougat, liqueur, or soft fondant are susceptible to cracking because sugar crystals expand at low temperatures.

6 Tips for Transporting and Warehousing of Chocolates

Whatever type of chocolate you’re shipping or storing, you should take similar precautions to preserve taste and quality. Here are six essential considerations to ensure your chocolates reach their destination in perfect condition:

1. Temperature

As we’ve already discussed, consistent temperatures are important to maintaining chocolate quality. Sugar bloom is a particular danger in the summer months. High temperatures, paired with high humidity, cause the sugar in the chocolate to dissolve. As the moisture evaporates, the sugar re-crystalizes, giving the chocolate a dusty appearance and off texture.

Using real-time temperature monitors provides continuous visibility into temperature fluctuations throughout the supply chain. With real-time temperature data, you can act quickly to correct deviations before product quality is impacted. As a result your team can improve ROI, while reducing food waste.

2. Humidity

Chocolate isn’t particularly sensitive to humidity except at the condensing temperature. In general, a humidity range of 15-75% is acceptable (though below 50% is ideal), with low humidity only becoming a concern below 10%. Continuous humidity monitoring alongside temperature tracking ensures chocolate isn’t exposed to excessive moisture or extremely dry conditions.

3. Air Flow

Chocolate is notorious for absorbing odors and flavors from nearby products. To prevent this, it's crucial to maintain adequate airflow around pallets at all times, a challenging logistics task.

For larger chocolate manufacturers, shipping full truckloads or single-load containers is ideal because it eliminates the possibility the chocolate will absorb odors from other products in the trailer. Small companies without the scale to ship full loads will need to work closely with logistics teams and their shipping partners to ensure the chocolate is properly loaded and shipped alongside low-odor products.

4. Light Exposure

Protect chocolate from direct light exposure, which can affect its quality and appearance. Shield it from harmful UV rays by using opaque packaging, such as aluminum foil, thick paper, and dark-colored wrappers. Even with appropriate packaging, chocolate should be stored in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight.

5. Packaging

While humidity may not greatly affect chocolate itself, it can be detrimental to packaging. Ensure that chocolate is shipped in materials that can withstand humidity exposure in transit, such as aluminum foil and plastic film. Chocolate packaging often consists of multiple layers, with an inner layer directly in contact with the chocolate and an outer layer that acts as a light barrier. This double-layer approach helps ensure the chocolate remains well-protected.

6. International Transportation

In global supply chains, chocolate is often transported via sea freight, which offers cost and temperature stability advantages. However, air freight can present some quality risks, especially in emergency product fulfillment scenarios. With air freight, rapid temperature changes are a concern because they can cause ingredients to separate and products to become deformed. These issues can be compounded and result in quality degradation when the chocolate is not fully cooled to the optimal shipping temperature before leaving the manufacturing site.

Temperature monitoring devices, such as dataloggers, can be used to continuously track the temperature during air travel, making it possible to detect deviations and take corrective actions if possible. Timing shipments to avoid extreme temperature conditions at departure and arrival airports can also help prevent temperature damage.

Final Thoughts

When transporting and warehousing chocolates, precision is key. To guarantee your chocolates arrive at their destination in perfect condition, consider investing in Sensitech’s temperature monitors and thermal mapping solutions. These tools and professional services enable you to monitor and maintain optimal chocolate storage temperature and humidity levels, no matter where the cold chain takes them.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Storage and Transport of Chocolates

For long-term storage, maintain a constant temperature between 54-68°F (12-20°C), most optimally in the range of 65°F-68°F. Store chocolate away from direct sunlight, strong odors, and moisture.

When stored correctly, chocolate can have a shelf life of up to two years or more. However, for optimal taste and texture, it is best consumed within the first year.

After shape molding, ensure the chocolate has sufficient time to cool and reach shipping temperatures to prevent it from forming condensation during transportation. Condensation creates moisture, which can cause quality issues. Rush orders are the most common reason why some chocolate makers ship chocolate before the product has reached the appropriate temperature.