[Updated 2024] How to ship Chinese New Year goodies internationally
Chinese New Year is just around the corner. Some times we gripe about it – the preparations for the celebrations can be a chore and the constant gatherings a tiring affair, especially for some of the introverts out there. But there is some truth to the saying that absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Perhaps you have a loved one staying overseas at the moment, and you want to delight them with a reminder of home and to let them know they are remembered and dearly missed by the family. What better way than to send some Chinese New Year goodies to them? After all, the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach.
Can I ship food overseas?
Shipping food has typically been viewed as a notoriously challenging task. Customs holds the final say in what passes through and what gets stopped. If they decide to stop your shipment and have it returned, you would have to bear the charges for the return i.e. ~1.5x your original shipping price.
Shipping providers like FedEx resolve this by publicly issuing a conservative guideline on what can be shipped. For example, you can see in their US-specific list that they listed non-perishable foodstuffs as a restricted item (see: what is a restricted item), meaning that they set the baseline expectation that added paperwork is required to ship food to the US.
That being said, only about 5% of our food shipments to US get highlighted by US Customs and asked for a FDA Prior Notice. (See: Guide to submitting FDA Prior Notice).
Some shipping providers like SingPost go further and ban the shipment of all food.
At JustShip, we aim to make international shipping easy and accessible for the everyday person. Recognising that Customs holds the final say in shipment control, we unfortunately cannot prescribe and promise what can be shipped.
However, what we can do is to share our extensive research as well as our experiences and statistics, which will help you make informed decisions and better manage your risk.
It's crucial to note that some countries have more stringent restrictions than others. Particularly, shipping food items to Spain and Belgium is fraught with challenges. In fact, most food items, including non-perishable foodstuffs, are likely to be rejected by customs in Spain and Belgium. Understanding these specific restrictions is essential to prevent your shipment from being held or rejected.
Read along, and if you find this article useful, do share it with your friends and family who would find it useful!
What are the general rules to shipping food internationally?
Strictly no traces of meat, but seafood is okay
For US specifically, no avian products e.g. bird’s nest
No whole eggs, but eggs beaten and mixed into pastry are okay
No butter slabs, but butter mixed into pastry is okay
Dairy products are okay as long as not in liquid form
What Chinese New Year goodies can be shipped internationally?
1. Can Bak Kwa be shipped?
Almost all countries strictly prohibit the shipment of any meat related products into their country, with the fear of having the meat spreading diseases. All our customers who shipped Bak Kwa had their shipments stopped, even those who vacuum sealed it. Do not ship Bak Kwa! JustShip is legally allowed to do spot checks on packed parcels and we will not ship your parcel for you if it has Bak Kwa in it.
2. Can Tau Sar Piah, Kuih Kapit, Kuih Bahulu, Kuih Bangkit, Rose Cookies, Love Letters be shipped?
These snacks typically contain ingredients such as eggs, flour, starch, cooking oil, coconut oil, coconut cream, water, sugar, and also salt. Based on such an ingredient list, these products would be able to pass through customs.
We have shipped these products without issue. If you require specific brand recommendations, we have shipped many from Bengawan Solo and Swee Heng in the past.
3. Can Pineapple Tarts be shipped?
UK has certain regulations for shipping dried fruits, but we have often shipped these products to the UK and worldwide without issue.
4. Can Spicy Shrimp Rolls be shipped?
This snack consists of mainly dried shrimp which is permitted! This is okay to ship.
5. Can Nian Gao be shipped?
We have not shipped this out before but because it is has a short shelf life, we suggest not to ship it. It is safer to ship items that can last through potential customs delays.
6. Can Arrowroot Chips be shipped?
This chip is of a plant origin, and US has certain regulations on shipping plant origin products to their country, but we have shipped it before without customs issues.
How to pack CNY goodies to survive international shipping?
When packing for international shipments, one criteria to keeping your fragile items safe is making sure your packed parcel passes the “shake test”. If you shake your parcel and you can hear movement inside it, that means your parcel has failed the shake test.
The items inside are moving around, and will be moving around as well while being transported internationally. If your items are fragile, this is a sure-fire way to get them destroyed.
The follow-up should be to add padding materials accordingly so that your item is secure and doesn’t move within its box.
Chinese New Year goodies often have lots of space left inside their containers. This means they will fail the shake test even if their containers are packed securely in a carton box. While JustShip offers packing services which our customers love, we will not (for many obvious reasons) open your food containers to pad them better.
Our advice is to consider one of the following options:
– Ship goodies that are not so fragile
– Ship the goodies and expect them to get a little roughed up
– Open up the containers and add more goodies or padding materials like tissue or paper that leave little space for movement within the containers
How to declare CNY food for international shipping?
When filling up our shipment form, it is important that you declare your items in a clear manner. Countries like US, UK, Germany and France are especially strict about the description.
One common mistake is to declare all the items in one line e.g. “Bengawan Solo Coconut Biscuit and Sunny Hills Pineapple Tarts”.
Instead, declare the first item, click the “Add another item” button to create a second line item, then declare the second item there. This seems tedious but it will greatly lower your risks of getting your shipment delayed.
JustShip shipment form
A final point is that these descriptions are being read and interpreted by customs officers from the destination country.
If the way you describe the snacks is too localised and raises suspicions of questionable ingredients in the snack to the customs officers, consider phrasing it in a way that may be more understandable to the officers.
Can I ship Chinese New Year goodies overseas?
Shipping food items may be require a little more work, but it remains a popular category of items to ship within the JustShip community, and for good reason!
Food is a heart language for many of us, and nothing beats a handwritten card along with some tangible, physical food in the hands to feel more connected with family and friends celebrating together from different parts of the globe.
If you follow the advice given here, we are confident you will navigate the shipping of your food items much better. The team at JustShip wishes all of you a blessed and prosperous New Year, Gong Xi Fa Cai!
As a final tip from us, better late than never, but better early than late! Ship your goodies in advance to make sure your loved ones get to eat them on Chinese New Year. Barring customs delays, JustShip takes 2-5 working days to ship from Singapore to US, UK, and anywhere worldwide.
Don’t wait, submit an order and you can schedule for a free pick-up from your doorstep as early as the next weekday!