“The Scariest Thing I Ever Saw In Shipping” with Larry French

November 03, 2011


We had a great Halloween weekend, and we hope you did as well.  This past weekend’s celebrations promted it us to ask our Senior Consultant for Cold-Chain Solutions Larry French what was the scariest thing he has ever seen on the job.

It all started a couple of years ago on what we assume was a dark and stormy night, but it probably wasn’t.

Larry had been asked to oversee a cold-chain application for a customer needing to ship frozen croissants with high yeast content (17-20%) and high butter content (roughly 1lb of butter in every 2lb croissant). No, the scary story isn’t a heart attack.

Larry wanted to push the product to their limit in an environmental chamber set to an extreme Summer test simulation. They were testing the solutions capability of keeping the product frozen during in a heat wave. Six corrugated boxes containing four shrink-wrapped croissants each were placed in the chamber on Friday to allow the test to run over the weekend.

“You take care of it.”

It was a normal Monday morning for Larry French until he received an emergency 8AM call from the Ernest lab stating simply, “Larry, you gotta get in here.”

“I arrived at work a few minutes later and was greeted at the door by a team member who handed me paper towels and a pair of gloves,” said Larry, “He looked at me and said, ‘You take care of it.’”

Little did Larry know that over the weekend their first solution had, well, not worked as well as they had hoped. The temperatures started to rise and about the time the croissants hit 50 or 60 degrees Fahrenheit the yeast began to expand, and expand some more until it shot through the shrink wrap and exploded all over the interior of the environmental chamber.

“3-4 lbs of butter and dough was dripping down the front of the chamber, it took about eight hours of cleanup,” said Larry. “To this day the test chamber still smells like a French bakery.”

The Happy Ending

After surviving a serious case of the Mondays, Larry and his team went back to work finding a new solution. They had found that the gel blocks they were using didn’t provide enough energy, there was high velocity evidence of that all over the lab.

So instead they decided to ship with an airline dry ice, which kept the product at the appropriate shipping temperature and ended up saving the customer about 2 lbs of shipping weight per unit, adding to a cost-savings of around $400,000.

That kind of money can buy a lot of pumpkins. Happy Halloween, everyone!