Coffee Shipping 101: Costs, Challenges, & How-to Ship

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As the coffee industry evolves, more and more consumers are turning to online shopping for their favourite brews. 

Shopping online provides a convenient alternative to visiting physical stores as it allows you to browse a wider variety of blends, roasts, or decaf options all from the comfort of your home. 

And with delivery times steadily improving over the years, many US consumers receive their online orders in just two to three business days. This makes online shopping a convenient way for people to always have coffee on hand.

This shift in buying habits has opened a whole world of possibilities for both established coffee retailers and those just looking to get their feet wet.

But if you’re interested in selling coffee online then you probably have a few questions about shipping orders. Things like:

  • How much will shipping cost?
  • What sort of fulfilment options are available?
  • How can I ensure my packages don’t arrive damaged?
  • Will the coffee stay fresh in transit?

In this guide, we’ll explore the latest ecommerce coffee trends, the challenges that come with shipping coffee, and how to ensure your coffee products can be shipped quickly and safely.

The coffee industry as a whole has experienced significant growth recently and that trend is expected to continue. According to Statista, the coffee market is expected to grow annually by 4.47% in the coming years.

Sales in the ecommerce space specifically have seen a significant boost in recent years, partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to Tea & Coffee and a webinar published by the National Coffee Association in 2020, Amazon saw a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 36.9% in coffee sales. Searches for ground coffee peaked in March 2020 but are still higher than pre-COVID levels.

This change in the global landscape provided coffee lovers the opportunity to make purchases online whereas they may not have done so in the past.

But an increase in coffee sales worldwide only paints a broad picture of the industry. One of the most recent trends for businesses to capitalise on is offering coffee subscriptions.

Coffee subscriptions

Coffee subscriptions are a rapidly growing subsegment of the online coffee market and offer a convenient way for consumers to receive their favourite coffees on a regular basis. 

The Specialty Coffee Association found that coffee subscription services had a 109% increase since 2019. These services allow coffee shipping businesses to better forecast how much inventory is needed all the while, increasing the lifetime value of their customer.

Challenges of shipping coffee

Running an ecommerce store versus a brick-and-mortar coffee shop presents two very different sets of challenges. You won’t be serving up an espresso or cold brew to your customers in person, but you’ll be tasked with delivering quality coffee to their doorstep on time.

Being aware of these challenges before embarking on your ecommerce journey can help you save both time and money.

Let’s dive into a few.

Shipping costs

One of the primary concerns when selling coffee online is the shipping cost. Shipping rates can differ based on a variety of factors, such as customer location, package weight, and more.

In order to remain competitive, it’s crucial for coffee companies to find cost-effective shipping solutions that can handle both domestic and international orders. 

For example, non-dairy creamer and coffee company, Prymal, did just that when they made the switch from another 3PL provider to ShipBob. The switch saved them $8,000 per month on fulfilment costs and allowed them to hit $160,000 in monthly sales.

“Last July, Prymal reached $40,000 in revenue. After switching to ShipBob just four months later in November, we are reaching $160,000 a month in revenue — that’s 300% growth. We’re also saving $8,000 per month in fulfilment costs.” 

Courtney Lee, Founder of Prymal

Freshness

As an ecommerce coffee brand, you’ll want to provide your customers with the best coffee possible. And you can’t have great coffee without it being fresh.

This means that coffee companies must prioritise efficient shipping methods that minimise the time between being roasted and delivery. 

The use of proper packaging materials is also crucial for preserving freshness during transit. For example, some coffee brands may consider using boxes instead of bubble mailers to ensure the coffee makes it to the customer without being damaged in transit.

Shipping speeds

If there’s anything coffee fanatics love more than a great cup of coffee it’s getting their newly purchased bags of coffee — fast. Fast shipping is a key differentiator for many online retailers, and coffee is no exception.

In order to keep up with customer expectations, consider offering 2-day shipping.

One way to do this is by outsourcing order fulfilment to a 3PL that has multiple fulfilment centres. That way, you can distribute your inventory across facilities and shipping zones to achieve faster shipping. By reducing the mile radius an order has to travel, you speed up the transit time.

Environmental concerns

As the demand for online coffee shopping increases, so does the environmental impact of shipping. The use of packaging materials and the carbon footprint of transportation contributes to environmental concerns. 

Eco-friendly packaging options are becoming increasingly important for both consumers and store owners alike. Although not something you need to prioritise directly out of the gate, it is something to keep in mind as you scale.

Additionally, by distributing your inventory across multiple fulfilment centres, you minimise the need for air transportation, which produces more carbon emissions than ground transportation.

How much does it cost to ship coffee?

Shipping costs for coffee products can vary depending on factors such as weight, packaging materials, courier, and shipping destination. 

Let’s go through an example of what Fedex, UPS, and USPS would charge to ship a 2-lb bag of coffee from New York to California.

We’ll assume that the box being shipped has the following dimensions: 14 x 6 x 4”.

CourierShipping SpeedShipping Cost
Fedex Ground6 Days$20.03
Fedex 2Day3 Days$71.84
UPS Ground4 Days$20.85
UPS 3 Day Select3 Days$50.35
USPS Retail Ground7 Days$15.00
USPS Priority Mail3 Days$17.05
Note: These prices were pulled from the couriers’ websites in April 2023.

With the same weight and dimensions in mind, now let’s take a look at the costs associated with shipping a 2-lb bag of coffee from New York to London.

CourierShipping SpeedShipping Cost
FedEx International Economy7 Days$192.49
FedEx International Priority3 Days$200.15
UPS Worldwide Expedited4 Days$186.74
UPS Worldwide Saver3 Days$202.25
USPS First-Class Package International ServiceVaries$28.75
USPS Priority Mail International6-10 Days$69.10
Note: These prices were pulled from the couriers’ websites in April 2023.

Domestic shipping rates from New York to California are pretty similar across all three major couriers ranging from $15-21. Rates from New York to London are, unsurprisingly, significantly more expensive with USPS offering the most affordable options at $28.75 or $69.10.

How to package coffee for shipping

Packaging coffee products properly is essential for elevating brand value, preserving product freshness, and minimising damage during transit. Here are a few things to consider when choosing coffee packaging materials:

  • Use customised packaging materials, such as branded boxes or labels, to create a memorable unboxing experience.
  • Use airtight, resealable bags or containers to protect coffee beans and grounds from moisture and air.
  • Use sturdy coffee shipping boxes or padded envelopes for shipping pods or capsules.
  • Include proper dunnage, such as bubble wrap, to protect your coffee products during transit.

Coffee shipping guide

As you can see, there are a few things to consider when it comes to coffee shipping. Whether you’re sending coffee via domestic or international shipping, you want to be prepared for any issues that might come your way.

Below are three steps to follow before shipping your coffee out the door.

Step 1: Choose a courier

Select a reliable shipping courier that offers a balance of speed, cost, and reliability. Couriers, such as USPS, UPS, FedEx, and other regional couriers, offer a variety of shipping options and services to meet your needs.

Step 2: Buy shipping insurance

Shipping insurance can protect your coffee products against loss, damage, or theft during transit. Many couriers offer shipping insurance as an optional add-on to their services. 

Evaluate the cost of insurance and the potential risks associated with shipping your products to determine whether insurance is necessary for your business.

Step 3: Research laws and fees

Before shipping coffee products, especially internationally, familiarize yourself with the import and regulations of the destination country. 

Coffee is often harvested in countries such as Ethiopia, Colombia, and Peru. Some destination countries may have restrictions or require additional documentation for coffee shipments based on where the beans were harvested.

Additionally, consider any import duties or taxes that may apply to your shipments and factor these costs into your pricing. A fulfilment partner may be able to assist with the logistics of getting products to international customers. For example, ShipBob offers Delivered Duties Paid (DDP) shipping options to ensure customers receive their orders and have a positive international shipping experience.

Ship coffee safely with ShipBob

ShipBob is a leading ecommerce fulfilment platform that can help you streamline your coffee shipping process. Whether you’re shipping coffee from your own warehouse or are looking for a reliable partner to fulfil your orders, ShipBob can help.

Some of the benefits of partnering with ShipBob include:

FDA-registered warehouses

ShipBob’s FDA-registered warehouses ensure that your coffee products are stored and handled in compliance with food safety regulations. So whether you plan on selling whole beans, grounds, or coffee pods, you can rest assured that ShipBob can fulfil your orders.

Network of fulfilment centres

With a network of over 30 fulfilment centres across the world, ShipBob can help you reduce shipping times and costs by strategically storing your coffee products closer to your customers.

ShipBob has fulfilment centres in the United States, Canada, UK, EU, and Australia, which allows you to fulfil orders in-country, bypassing hefty import fees and laws.

2-day shipping

ShipBob offers a fast 2-day shipping option in the US with 100% coverage across the continental US from even one fulfilment centre, enabling you to meet customer expectations for speedy delivery and maintain the freshness of your coffee products.

Inventory management

ShipBob’s inventory management system helps you track and manage your coffee products in real-time. Keeping tabs on multiple SKUs and lot numbers can be time-consuming and overwhelming. A strong inventory management system takes care of this for you — reducing the risk of stockouts and ensuring efficient order fulfilment.

Full tech stack and integrations

ShipBob’s technology stack integrates seamlessly with popular ecommerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, and more. Additionally, ShipBob integrates with many of today’s most popular ecommerce platforms like Gorgias, Klayvio, Linnworks, and more.

By connecting your tech stack to ShipBob, you’re able to simplify the order management and fulfilment process and utilise ShipBob as a single source of truth for logistics.

Get started with ShipBob

If you’re interested in learning more about ShipBob and how we can help fulfil orders for your ecommerce coffee brand, connect with our team to get started.

Coffee shipping FAQs

Below are answers to the most common questions about shipping coffee. 

What is the cheapest way to ship coffee?

The cheapest way to ship coffee within the United States is through USPS. To ship a 2-lb bag of coffee from New York City to Los Angeles would cost $15 with Ground shipping or $17.05 via Priority Mail.

Can coffee be shipped?

Yes, coffee can be shipped domestically and internationally. However, it is essential to package your coffee products properly and comply with the shipping regulations and requirements of the destination country.

Can I ship coffee via USPS?

Yes, you can ship coffee via USPS. The United States Postal Service offers various shipping options, such as Retail Ground, Priority Mail, and Priority Mail Express. USPS is often the most cost-effective choice for shipping coffee.

Can coffee be shipped internationally?

Yes, coffee can be shipped internationally. However, it is essential to be aware of the specific import regulations and restrictions of the destination country, as well as any additional customs fees, taxes, or duties that may apply.

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Written By:

Meredith is a Content Marketing Specialist at ShipBob, where she writes articles, eGuides, and other resources to help growing ecommerce businesses master their logistics and fulfillment.

Read all posts written by Meredith Flora