When a brick-and-mortar business expands to ecommerce, the first and often biggest questions that come up involve shipping. What kind of packaging do they need? What’s the best carrier? And, crucially, how much will all of that cost? Add food and beverage to the mix—enter refrigeration and glass protection—and the challenges pile up.
That’s why we decided to learn all about shipping food and drinks from companies who are already nailing it—as consumers. We order, unbox, photograph, and discuss. Here, we start with pastries.
We chose two products, each from a top brand based in a different part of the country. Salt Lake City’s Les Madeleines is the brainchild of renowned pastry chef Romina Rasmussen, who for almost two decades has taken inspiration from her global travels. The kouign amann, with a crispy croissant exterior and soft, gooey interior, is the specialty of the house. (Fun fact: Les Madeleines was the first bakery west of the Mississippi and third in the U.S. to make kouign amann back in 2005. Today, it’s everywhere.)
Our second pick was the top-selling lemon sugar morning bun from San Francisco’s Craftsman and Wolves, a bakery and pâtisserie known for inventive flavors and impeccable technique. A buttery layered dough is sprinkled with brown sugar, lemon, vanilla, and honey before being rolled up, baked, and topped with Meyer lemon sugar.
We placed both orders on April 17. Les Madeleines’ kouign amann were shipped on April 19 and delivered April 20 via UPS Next Day Air Saver. Craftsman and Wolves’ morning buns left San Francisco on April 20 and arrived the following day, April 21, via FedEx Standard Overnight.
Both packages arrived as thick cardboard boxes with smaller paper boxes inside. Craftsman and Wolves used crumpled kraft paper to keep the inner box from jostling too much. One box was tied with string, and the other was secured with a paper band around the middle. Neither saw any need for temperature control.
Inside the inner boxes were the pastries. Interestingly, Les Madeleines used dividers to keep the kouign amann from sticking together, while Craftsman and Wolves simply stacked the buns in the box with a bit of parchment paper as lining. It’s worth mentioning that the morning buns had a more rustic presentation overall, with irregular shapes and texture. The kouign amann, meanwhile, were all uniform.
On a final packaging note, the kouign amann came with reheating instructions, while the buns did not—they were presumably meant to be eaten at room temperature.
Delicious! Our tasters were delighted to find that no quality was compromised in transit, and both pastries retained the outer flakiness and pillowy interior that was advertised. Les Madeleines’ kouign amann were pleasantly sticky inside, while Craftsman and Wolves’ morning buns were drier overall, with plenty of fragrant lemon flavor. Both lasted a couple of days on the countertop before eventually losing their texture.
Ultimately, it seems that the trick to shipping pastries isn’t about packaging so much as timing. Next-day shipping allows these delicacies to go from oven to faraway recipient while still maintaining peak freshness. Of course, fast shipping comes with significant costs. That’s why it makes more sense to offer a box of three, six, or even 12 pastries rather than selling in smaller quantities.
Stay tuned for insights as we unbox more eats and drinks from around the web!