How to Effectively Use Ice Gel Packs in Cold Chain Packaging

How to Effectively Use Ice Gel Packs in Cold Chain Packaging
Published On:December 2, 2020 Revised On:December 13, 2023

Cold chain packaging ensures these goods reach their destination in optimal condition, whether perishable food items, pharmaceuticals, or delicate biological materials. Among the packaging solutions, ice gel packs can help to keep temperatures at bay. Ice gel packs are used for two primary purposes: as a packaging material and to treat injuries. In this article, we look closer at how to use ice gel packs in cold chain packaging.

Understanding Ice Gel Packs

Ice gel packs, also known as ice packs or freezer packs, are filled with a gel-like substance that can absorb, store, and release thermal energy. They come in various shapes, sizes, and compositions, catering to the specific requirements of different products.

Ice gel packs typically have a flexible outer casing filled with a gel-like substance. This gel is formulated to have a high heat capacity and a phase transition temperature well-suited to the desired temperature range for cooling. The outer casing is designed to be durable and leak-resistant, ensuring the gel remains contained even as it changes states during temperature shifts. Various gel packs are available, each tailored to specific applications and requirements. These can include:

  • Reusable Gel Packs: These packs can be frozen and reused multiple times. They are commonly used when the same packaging is used for multiple shipments, and the gel packs can be refrozen between uses.
  • Disposable Gel Packs: Intended for one-time use, disposable gel packs are often used for shipments where the cold chain is maintained for a single journey. They offer convenience and eliminate the need for retrieval after delivery.
  • Flexible Gel Packs: These are designed to adapt to the contours of the packaged products, ensuring even cooling and better contact with the contents.
  • Hard Gel Packs: These are more rigid and maintain their shape even when frozen, providing a consistent cooling surface within the packaging.

How Do Ice Gel Packs Work?

Ice gel packs operate based on the principles of thermodynamics, utilizing the latent heat of fusion to regulate temperature. When the gel pack is frozen, the gel undergoes a phase transition from liquid to solid. During this transition, it absorbs significant heat from its surroundings, effectively cooling down.

These gel packs absorb, release thermal energy and buffer against temperature fluctuations. As the temperature rises, these packs tirelessly absorb heat, preventing the packaging contents from warming up too quickly. Conversely, they release their stored cold energy as the temperature drops, counteracting external freezing temperatures.

Using Ice Gel Packs in Cold Chain Packaging

Proper handling and transportation practices are essential to ensure that the efforts put into packaging and utilizing ice gel packs yield the desired results. Strategically placing ice gel packs within the packaging provides uniform and effective cooling throughout the journey. The goal is to create an environment where products are consistently exposed to the desired temperature range without experiencing extreme fluctuations.

Achieving Uniform Cooling: When positioning gel packs, aim to distribute them evenly within the packaging. This prevents localized temperature variations and ensures that the entire contents of the package receive adequate cooling. Placing gel packs closer to the outer edges of the packaging can help maintain a more stable internal temperature.

Avoiding Direct Contact: While gel packs are essential for maintaining a cold environment, direct contact between gel packs and the products can sometimes lead to unintended freezing. This is particularly crucial when dealing with delicate items that might be damaged by freezing temperatures. To prevent freezing, create a buffer between the gel packs and the products using packaging materials like cardboard dividers, foam spacers, or additional insulation layers.

Guidelines for Safe Handling: When dealing with packages containing ice gel packs, treat them with care to prevent damage. Avoid dropping, crushing, or puncturing the gel packs, which could lead to leakage and compromise their cooling efficiency. Provide clear instructions to handlers about the presence of gel packs and the need to handle them delicately.

Ensuring Gel Packs Remain Intact: Throughout the transportation process, monitor the condition of the gel packs to ensure they remain intact and functional. A damaged gel pack can leak its contents, potentially damaging the packaged items and leading to temperature fluctuations. Regular visual inspections can help identify any signs of damage or leakage.

Layering and Insulation

Layering and insulation create a barrier that slows heat exchange between the external environment and the packaging contents. This barrier is crucial for preserving the cold chain and ensuring the gel packs have ample time to regulate the temperature effectively.

Optimize the effectiveness of cold chain packaging by strategically employing insulation and layering techniques. This approach not only safeguards the temperature-sensitive contents but also contributes to minimizing wastage and maintaining the quality of the products during their journey.

Proper Placement within the Package: Confirm that the gel packs remain correctly positioned within the packaging during transportation. Vibrations, jostling, and orientation changes can shift the gel packs out of their designated spots. This displacement could lead to uneven cooling or inadequate temperature control within the package.

Enhancing Temperature Retention with Insulation: Insulation materials, such as bubble wrap, foam, or thermal blankets, protect against temperature fluctuations. These materials trap air and act as barriers to heat transfer. By lining the inner walls of the packaging with insulation, minimize the impact of external temperature changes on the contents. This is particularly important when products are exposed to varying temperatures during transportation or storage.

Creating a Cold Barrier through Layering: Placing the gel packs and products strategically can help create a cold barrier that prevents temperature deviations. Place a layer of products on the bottom, followed by a layer of ice gel packs. Repeat this process, alternating between products and gel packs until the packaging is filled. This method ensures that products are surrounded by cooling sources on all sides, reducing the risk of hotspots or inadequately cooled areas.

Monitoring Temperature

Ensuring the successful execution of the cold chain relies heavily on vigilantly monitoring temperature levels within the packaging. Temperature-sensitive indicators are vital in keeping a watchful eye on this critical aspect.

Maintaining Consistency in Temperature Regulation: Gel packs work in synergy with the packaging design to regulate temperature. Any mishandling or improper positioning can disrupt this delicate equilibrium. To maintain the consistency of temperature regulation, emphasize the importance of proper handling practices to all stakeholders involved in the transportation process.

Temperature-Sensitive Indicators: Integrate temperature-sensitive indicators or data loggers within the packaging. These small devices provide real-time data on the internal temperature. Choose indicators that are compatible with the temperature range required for specific products. These indicators provide valuable insights into temperature deviations and help take corrective actions promptly.

Regular Checks and Recordkeeping: During transit, maintain a schedule for checking and recording temperature readings. Regularly assess the performance of the gel packs and the overall temperature stability. This practice allows for identifying any fluctuations or issues that might arise during transportation. Keep a detailed record of temperature logs, which can be immensely helpful for analysis and improving cold chain processes.

Maximizing Gel Pack Performance

Optimizing the efficiency of ice gel packs involves careful planning and execution to ensure consistent and reliable cooling throughout the journey.

Avoid Over-Packing: Resist cramping too many packs into a single packaging. Over-packing can hinder air circulation around the gel packs, reducing their cooling efficiency. When air can’t flow freely around the gel packs, their ability to absorb and release heat becomes compromised. Leave sufficient space to allow for proper airflow and heat exchange.

Varied Gel Pack Sizes for Even Cooling: Incorporate gel packs of various sizes strategically within the packaging. This approach fills gaps and creates a more uniform cooling environment. Smaller gel packs can be placed in tighter spaces or corners, ensuring no area is left inadequately cooled. Using different-sized gel packs promotes even distribution of cold energy throughout the package.


Maintaining the cold chain’s integrity is critical. The efficacy of ice gel packs hinges on careful planning, execution, and adherence to proper procedures. From selecting suitable gel packs to strategic placement, layering, insulation, and monitoring, products reach their destinations without compromise.

Stream Peak manufactures ISO 9001 and 14001 compliance ice gel packs in Singapore, using advanced Japanese technology and materials. Our non-toxic gel packs are suitable for food and healthcare packaging. Contact us for details and a no-obligation appointment to understand more about ice gel packs.