Ice packs for packaging

Josie Morris. Insulated Packaging. Naturally.

Woolcool® was launched in 2008 and the innovative, sustainable design has scooped an impressive haul of awards in the packaging, business and environmental arenas.

August, 2023

Although great insulation is the difference between a product arriving fresh and a product arriving spoilt, ice packs, gel packs, ice blocks, frozen packs or whatever you refer to them as, are an essential part of passive packaging in the temperature-controlled logistics cold chain. Woolcool® has been at the forefront of this challenging sector for over a decade. With so many complexities to consider, from product conditioning to freezer types to the challenge of varying climates, we strive to simplify our solutions as much as possible.

To provide an expert point of contact in challenges of the cold chain for our customers. This means understanding the science, how heat transfer works, how ice packs defrost, how Woolcool® liners insulate and how to strike the right balance needed to deliver high-performing insulated packaging solutions through all the different logistical chains. At the same time, not forgetting the importance of quality, being compliant, providing qualification and independent evidence to claims, whilst still remaining competitive and cost effective. We work closely with our customers to create a bespoke solution that will fit their needs, not just shoe-horning in a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

It’s important to choose the correct ice pack type/format.

We often get asked if ice packs are necessary to maintain a chilled shipment. The simple answer is Yes. Unless you’re looking to install a mini refrigeration system, if you want to moderate the temperature of a parcel’s contents for a period of time – whether it is food or pharmaceutical – you are going to need some form of chilled, frozen pack or PCM. But while frozen gel packs or ice packs provide the essential energy at the core of a delivery, there are so many other factors that influence the performance, cost and overall effectiveness of a passive packaging solution.

In comparison to conventional man-made insulators like polystyrene, wool’s performance is so good it can mean you need fewer ice packs and gel packs to regulate your parcel’s temperature.

Josie Morris MBE

Managing Director, Woolcool®

To successfully manage delivery of temperature-sensitive items, your choice of insulation is key. It is also vital to control as many of the variables involved in any cold chain, from preparation, to packing area to delivery.

So why do you need gel packs or ice packs if you have insulation? Woolcool® liners are amazing insulators, the wool fibres work to regulate the temperature inside a package, as they do to regulate a sheep’s temperature. However, for longevity in a cold chain, ice packs/gel packs/cool blocks are needed. One way of looking at your ice pack or gel pack is like a frozen battery, that provides the dynamic cooling element at the heart of your package, the Wool will then act to regulate the temperature within the pouch, insulated bag or thermal box, slowing down and preventing the transfer of heat.

There are a number of different kinds of ice packs on the market – some using water ice, some using gels while others are ‘soaked’ – and each have their own positives and levels of performance and longevity, the right option for you will be based on your logistical requirements. Choosing the right kind of ice pack or gel pack is very important, making sure that they are strong, well constructed and robust and not going to break within transit. For example, a cheap ice pack is good in terms of cost, but may have brittle plastic that splits, which means any cooling element will leak once the pack defrosts. Luckily, if this does happen, then Wool has amazing absorption properties without it feeling or looking wet and so will absorb the moisture, negating the full impact of issues a water soaked delivery can present for a customer. However, even after selecting the perfect ice pack for your needs, the most important factor about a cold chain box is the performance and properties of the insulator you choose. While ice packs or frozen blocks may be the ‘battery’ at the heart of your package, the key to any cold chain temperature-controlled delivery is majorly reliant on the efficiency of the insulation. Your choice of insulating material can also have an impact on weight, cost, customer experience, size and performance.

At Woolcool®, we have pioneered the use of natural wool as an alternative material to conventional insulators such as polystyrene. From an evolutionary standpoint, wool is a brilliant heat barrier. It has been in development in nature for over 10,000 years, doing the exact job on a sheep.

To put it simply, it has been developed in Mother Nature’s laboratory, over many thousands of years, to keep animals warm by keeping their body heat in. As part of Woolcool®’s insulation solution, it does the same brilliant job of keeping heat out of your packages.

As nature works against the cooling effects of the ice packs/gel packs in your valuable parcel, our wool insulation allows you to use one of Mother Nature’s own super materials to hold her at bay. This may sound like a simplistic statement, but it’s based on hard, evidential science. Woolcool® has spent over ten years pioneering the development of natural materials as insulators, investing huge amounts in research and testing to meet the exacting standards required by our customers and partners. Through rafts of data, we can show just how well this super material performs in comparison to alternatives.

Fewer ice packs equates to big commercial savings.

Ice Packs from Woolcool®

In fact, in comparison to conventional man-made insulators like polystyrene, wool’s performance is so good it can mean you need fewer ice packs and gel packs to regulate your parcel’s temperature. This can mean saving costs not only on the number of ice packs you use but on your entire logistic operation, making parcels smaller, lighter and cheaper to ship and send. So, although we would strongly recommend using cooling elements, using Woolcool®’s bio-degradable, compostable, reusable and recyclable wool insulation, this can help to make a saving both in cost and environmental impact.

Of course, there are many other aspects to consider, including portability, strength and robustness of a package. However, the insulator and cooling element are the two key components that need the most consideration in your cold chain packaging solution as they will impact efficiency and performance.

With so many variables at play, we help you to keep things simple. And after a decade of research and development, we can show that the simplicity of 100% pure natural wool is the key to cool-headed temperature control helping your ice packs, gel packs, cooling element, ice block, or whatever you want to call it, achieve their optimum and thus providing a trusted and consistent solution. We are the experts in our field (excuse the pun), the challenges of cold chain, the science of heat transfer and insulation is our thing, along with being able to provide you with a bespoke, tailored Woolcool® solution, we can assist and advise on all aspects of the cold chain to help you achieve the highest performing and most cost effective system for your specific chain.

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