This week, we’re revisiting an older blog about selling time-sensitive items – or products with a shorter shelf life – online. By nature, virtually every food product is going to have an expiration date. And, like it or not, products with expiration dates are like fussy relatives: no matter where you take them, they’re always going to require special attention. Selling online is no exception.
As we approach the Fancy Foods Fair, we know that the art of juggling products with a shorter shelf life can be a real challenge… especially within the Amazon ecosystem.
The good news is, gourmet food companies aiming for a niche market are actually in a great place. Forbes reports that food is increasingly becoming part of identity, as the millennial generation shares their eating habits via social media and cooks interesting meals after a long week at the office. And, even if you can’t find a way to ship avocado toast through Amazon, you can bet millennials are going to be a big chunk of your potential market. So, though a shorter shelf-life can be a pain – remember it’s just one downside.
In this blog, we’ve outlined the basic FBA rules you’ll have to follow as a seller of products with a shorter-shelf life. Keep in mind: we are NOT talking about perishables. Thankfully, these rules can be helpful in selling on your own site as well. Amazon uses these guidelines for a reason, and implementing them may increase the consistency of your own processes.
- Amazon removes items before they expire
Since Amazon takes into account both the shipping of items and the consumption of items by customers, this means “Best By” and “Sell By” are considered one and the same. It also means that any item within 50 days of its expiration date will be disposed of (or a removal order will be created for the items).
You should also keep in mind that if you are selling an item like vitamins, you must consider the time it takes to consume the product. So, if it’s a bottle of 60 pills, Amazon’s disposal date would be 110 days before expiration.
- Amazon requires a time cushion for newly received items
It goes without saying that you’ll always want to aim to send items with plenty of time before they expire, so that you don’t end up losing your window to sell. However, it’s important to note that Amazon only accepts items with 105 days or more before expiration, so anything less than that should be sold through other methods like FBM (fulfilled by manufacturer).
Remember though, if you use FBA for all your sales channels like Whitebox does, you may have to sell these products through other means… like the local farmer’s market or Mom and Pop store.
- Expiration dates must be easily visible on boxes and items
Amazon always wants to make their processes more efficient, and part of this means being sticklers for easy quality control. When it comes to time-sensitive items, expiration dates must be printed clearly on outer boxes (font size 36 or larger), as well as each individual item. If you have outer packaging, like individual boxes or shrink wrap, the date must be visible on this outer packaging rather than only the item inside.
- Expiration dates must be in a specific format
Amazon also requires a particular arrangement of numbers – MM-DD-YYYY or MM-YYYY – on all of their items. If you have a different way of printing, you’ll have to cover that with a label that matches Amazon’s desired format. Depending on the volumes you sell on Amazon, it may be worth shifting your format to match theirs to save time in the future.
Also, while you may read MM-YYYY as expiring on the last day of the month, Amazon always considers it to be the FIRST day of the month. So, just be sure that you consider this as you schedule your shipments to the Amazon warehouse.
Since everyone knows that Amazon is all about streamlining and consistency, selling time-sensitive products through FBA requires both an eye for detail and a process that emphasizes efficiency. Whether you’re selling gourmet ketchup or herbal supplements, you’ll have to build expiration dates into your processes.
Whitebox knows food products, since over half of our clients sell consumable goods. We work with a variety of clients who’ve faced challenges with respect to expiration dates, and we're always willing to talk about working towards more efficient and reliable methods for your products.