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How are Sunflower Seeds Transported?

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How are sunflower seeds transported? With the right packaging and the right shipping partner. See how R+L Global Logistics can get your goods on the road.
Published: June 15, 2020
Last Modified: March 19, 2024
Author: Ask Truckload

How are sunflower seeds transported? Well, you’re not alone if you’re asking yourself that question. The process of shipping sunflower seeds around the U.S. is not as simple as you might imagine, and depending on how it’s done, there are different challenges that you could encounter. If you want to turn this difficult process into a stress-free experience, then R+L Global Logistics is on hand to help! You won’t have to worry about a thing, knowing your shipment would be in good hands. 

How are sunflower seeds transported? Packaging is the most important thing to consider if you want your sunflower seeds to make it to their destination intact. In addition to that, you will also need to ensure your shipment is protected from moisture, or else it could spoil—or ignite—before it arrives.

Where are Sunflowers Grown in the U.S.?

The common sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is a versatile plant that can grow in any temperate climate, but the vast majority of domestically grown sunflower seeds come from only three states. 75% of U.S. sunflower seeds are grown in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota, and then transported around to other states.

Need help moving sunflower seeds south? Learn more about freight shipping from North Dakota to Florida.

The reason those northern states top the sunflower seed production charts is because of their particular climate. Sunflowers are a short-season crop, which means that although they need a lot of sun, they mature completely in only 3 or 4 months in the summertime. The particularly harsh, cold winters of those northern states helps to keep bugs and other pests away from the sunflowers as well, allowing them to thrive once the cold snow melts away. 

A single sunflower has the potential to produce up to 1,400 seeds at one time, and those seeds are being applied in a multitude of different ways. It’s no surprise that sunflowers are becoming a more popular crop as time goes on! 

Uses for Sunflower Seeds

Uses for Sunflower Seeds

There are two different types of sunflowers that are grown as a crop: the oilseed variety, which is used to press into cooking oil, and the non-oil or confectionary variety, which is often sold as a snack, ingredient, or garnish. Seeds used for oil are small and completely black, which is why those sunflowers are sometimes called “black oil sunflowers.” The confectionary sunflower seeds are larger, about an inch long, and have white stripes going down the length of the husk.

The U.S. sunflower seed industry is consistently valued above $450 million per year, with the vast majority of that profit coming from sunflower oil. Of the seeds grown in the United States, only 10% are the confectionary variety, while the other 90% is the oilseed variety. 

Both types of sunflower seeds have a multitude of different uses.

Although black oil sunflower seeds can be used in the same ways as confectionary sunflower seeds, it is coveted for its high oil content. These seeds are primarily used to make oil, and the meal that is left over after pressing the oil out is used as a high-protein filler for animal feed.

Confectionary sunflower seeds are used for different things depending on the seeds’ grade. The highest grade seeds are dried and roasted, either in the shell or dehulled, to be eaten as a snack. Seeds that are still food-grade, but lacking in good visual characteristics, are often sold as ingredients. They can also be used to make:

  • Sunflower butter
  • Sunflower brittle
  • Bread
  • Pesto
  • Protein bars
  • Candies
  • Sunflower seed flour
  • Cookies
  • And a variety of other dishes

Finally, sunflower seeds that are not deemed to be food-safe are used in birdseed and pet rodent food. 

How to Package Sunflower Seeds for Shipping

In most cases, the farmers who grow the sunflower seeds do not have the facilities to process them into oil, roast them for consumers, or mix it into birdseed. In order to do that, the sunflower seeds must be shipped to another location. 

To prepare sunflower seeds for freight shipping, they must be packaged to make it easier to move them onto and off of the trucks. There are several packaging options that you can choose from, but the most common option is with burlap or woven plastic bags. These bags can then be handled individually, or they can be palletized to move multiple bags at one time. 

To palletize bags of sunflower seeds, you should first place down a sheet of plastic or fiberboard down to cover up the gaps in the pallet and provide a smooth, splinter-free surface to stack your bags on. Then, stack the bags horizontally, staggering them over the other’s edges to give the pallet stability. Once you’ve stacked the bags to the desired height (not exceeding 6 feet), wrap the entire thing in several layers of plastic wrap to secure it all together, and firmly attach it to the pallet. 

Another option for shipping sunflower seeds is with a collapsible bulk container, which is a large plastic bin with pallet slots already in the bottom, so it can be moved by forklift. These containers can come with or without a cover on top, but you should consider covering your sunflower seeds to ensure you don’t lose any if the trip is a bit bumpy. 

Shipping Sunflower Seeds in Bulk

Shipping Sunflower Seeds in Bulk

If you need to ship a large quantity of sunflower seeds a long distance, then you might want to consider foregoing packaging altogether to ship them as bulk goods. That means the loose sunflower seeds would be dumped into the back of a freight truck that’s open at the top. There are many benefits to shipping sunflower seeds this way, but problems can sometimes arise when shipping dry bulk freight. 

One of the biggest benefits of this type of shipping is the efficiency of it. Since there aren’t any pallets, packing materials, or other debris, you can move a lot more sunflower seeds at once this way. Pallets and other materials add weight and take up space, so getting rid of them means you’ll be able to fit more sunflower seeds on the truck.

Shipping in bulk also saves time. Since sorting, bagging, palletizing, plastic wrapping, and loading the seeds takes an incredibly long time, it’s not hard to imagine how much time you could save if you skipped all the steps in the middle and simply dumped the sunflower seeds onto a truck. It also makes it easier to unload once it reaches the processing facility.

If speed is a concern for you, you could also invest a little extra money into getting expedited shipping services for your freight. That means, if you’re working with a 3PL, that your freight would be given priority over other shipments the company is moving, to get it on the road as quickly as possible. It also means that your shipment will be assigned a driver team so that it can go a much farther distance without stopping than ordinary shipments. 

However, even though there are several benefits to shipping sunflower seeds as dry bulk goods, that doesn’t mean everything is smooth sailing. Some things can still go horribly wrong if you aren’t careful. 

Controlling Moisture in Bulk Sunflower Seed Shipping

Moisture is one of the biggest problems that you’ll need to be aware of if you choose to ship your sunflower seeds as bulk freight. If even a little bit of water gets into the shipment, it could ruin the whole batch. Excess moisture will cause the seeds to begin to rot, turning them rancid and rendering them inedible. If you want to prevent this, you’ll need to take some steps to control the moisture level of your shipment. 

One of the simplest ways you can protect your shipment from moisture is to pay attention to the weather. If you know it’s supposed to rain anywhere along the shipment’s route, then you should hold off shipping immediately if you can. However, if you absolutely cannot wait for clear weather, you do have another option. 

The first steps of protecting a shipment against moisture actually happen before the truck is loaded. You will need to make sure that the sunflower seeds you are shipping have had an adequate amount of time to dry, and have a moisture content of less than 9.5% before they are packed. 

Next, you will need to have the truck prepared. The inside of the truck should be thoroughly cleaned and dried, and then lined with a plastic liner if necessary. Then, the dried sunflower seeds can be loaded up onto the truck.

Once the truck is loaded all the way, you will need to position a tarp over the top of it to keep out rainwater, snow, and other precipitation. You should consider using a reflective tarp to deflect sunlight as well, since high temperatures can cause condensation to build up on the inside of the container. Then you can be sure that you have given your shipment the best chance of staying dry.

Sunflower Seeds Spontaneous Combustion

Sunflower Seeds Spontaneous Combustion

Rot and decay aren’t the only things you’re going to need to worry about if your shipment gets too damp. Too much moisture encourages increased respiration, which causes the fat inside the sunflower seeds to rapidly break down. This process (called hydrolytic/enzymatic fat cleavage) produces intense heat, which further amplifies the process and exponentially speeds it up. 

Sunflower seeds must be dried before they are packed for bulk shipment, but if water enters the shipment anyway, that can end up working against you. Even dry sunflower seeds are high in fats and oils, which can be a dangerous combination. The intense heat generated by this process, coupled with the dry shells and high oil content, can cause the shipment to ignite. As you can imagine, fires like this are extremely difficult to get under control, and almost always result in the loss of the shipment, damage to property, and risks for the truck driver.

For most commodities, this process takes some time to become a problem, so it rarely affects short truckload shipments—but that is not the case with sunflower seeds. The particular composition of the seeds means that a devastating reaction can take place in mere hours if even a small amount of water is allowed to enter the truck. Because of this, it is imperative that you take the necessary steps to protect your shipment from moisture. 

Packaging Dehulled Sunflower Seeds

Once the sunflower seeds arrive at the processing plant, there’s a high likelihood that they will be roasted and dehulled to turn them into a convenient and tasty snack. Once the hulls are removed, however, the seeds are going to have different handling requirements. They are no longer as resistant to damage or contamination, so you need to ensure that they are handled accordingly. 

In almost all cases, once the seeds are processed, they will be packaged for consumers and shipped directly to a store. Regardless of whether the seeds are raw or roasted, they are packaged in similar ways. The most common choice for packaging is an airtight plastic bag or resealable pouch. It is absolutely imperative that the container is airtight, since the seeds will go stale if left out for too long. 

 Since these packages are going straight to stores, you will need to make sure you are compliant with all of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) labeling requirements, such as nutrition labeling, organic claims, and net quantity statements. These requirements also require you to include your own contact information and company name on the label as well.  You could get in serious legal trouble if the packages are not labeled properly.

Once the seeds are packaged, they should be packed in larger boxes and then palletized for easy loading and unloading. The process of palletizing boxes is similar to palletizing bags, but instead of staggering the layers, you should stack the boxes in columns so their edges line up. This will give the pallet more strength since the sturdiest part of a box is its corners. As with bags, you will still need to wrap the entire pallet with plastic wrap to hold it all together. Unlike with bags, however, it is recommended that you use thick nylon straps to firmly secure the boxes to the pallet. 

Shipping Chocolate-Covered Sunflower Seeds

Shipping Chocolate-Covered Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are often sold as part of candies or sweets, and none is more iconic than the brightly colored, candy-coated chocolate sunflower seeds. However, when it comes to shipping this delightful confection, you might run into trouble. Shipping anything made of, or including, chocolate introduces an entirely new set of challenges when compared to shipping regular sunflower seeds. The most important difference between shipping regular sunflower seeds and chocolate-covered seeds is temperature. 

As you probably already know, chocolate has a frustratingly low melting point. Chocolate can begin to lose its shape at temperatures as low as 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and the back of a freight truck can get much hotter than that. Thankfully, there’s a simple solution that doesn’t involve expensive packaging or dry ice: refrigerated freight trucks. 

Refrigerated shipping is an affordable option for keeping your shipment at a consistent temperature. The temperature can be precisely controlled by the driver, and they get notified any time it fluctuates outside of the acceptable range so that can be corrected. Refrigerated shipping with R+L Global Logistics is quick, easy, and reliable. We uphold high standards for our drivers and their refrigerated technology, so you know you’re getting the best in the industry. 

Shipping Sunflower Seeds with R+L Global Logistics

No matter what you have to ship, R+L Global Logistics can be your trusted partner. Not only are we one of the most reliable freight partners out there (with a record of 99.5% of all our shipments being delivered exactly on schedule), we can also boast best-in-class customer service. Our specialists are multilingual, available 24/7, and dedicated to providing customized solutions to all customers. If your shipment has specific needs, we’re flexible, and can provide a tailored solution just for you!

In addition to that, you can rely on our:

  • Commitment to serving our customers
  • Financial strength
  • Family-owned values
  • Real-time freight visibility
  • Licensed and certified partners
  • Diverse portfolio of shipments

We can do anything from freight shipping hazardous materials to transporting a mobile home. We’ve seen it all!

Now that you know how sunflower seeds are transported, why not give us a call to get the process started? Reach out to us at (866) 353-7178, or if you want to save time, request a freight quote by submitting our quote form online. 

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