The Ins and Outs of Choosing IBC Totes Over 55-Gallon Drums

The Ins and Outs of Choosing IBC Totes Over 55-Gallon Drums

February 15, 2022 Off By Paul Petersen

Shipping food products is not always the easiest thing in the world. You have to abide by certain standards that guarantee health and safety, purity, and so forth. You also have to decide on the best containers for each product. Food grade IBC totes are a common choice. So are food-grade 55-gallon drums.

The ins and outs of both types of containers are worth looking at. And in many cases, food-grade IBC totes win the day. They offer some significant advantages over their 55-gallon drum counterparts. On the other hand, there are some disadvantages to choosing them as well.

For the record, Houston-based CedarStoneIndustry says that the caged IBC tote is arguably the most common shipping container for food products. A typical food-grade IBC tote has a capacity of either 275 or 330 gallons. A 55-gallon drum’s capacity is self-evident.

  1. Shipping Is More Efficient

A caged IBC tote is essentially a large plastic container encased in a metal cage. Known more formally as intermediate bulk containers and/or international bulk containers, caged IBC totes are manufactured to dimensional standards. They are either perfect cubes or rectangular in shape. At any rate, they make shipping more efficient.

Because they are all a uniform size and caged, multiple IBC totes can be stacked with very little wasted space. They can easily be stored as well. Even maneuvering an IBC tote around a tight warehouse is easier thanks to its increased stability. You just do not get the same shipping efficiency with 55-gallon drums.

  1. Less Shipping Space Required

In addition to more efficient shipping, food grade IBC totes require less space for the same amount of volume. That means manufacturers can move more product in the same amount of space with IBC totes, compared to what they would need to ship in 55-gallon drums. Less space means a lower shipping cost per unit.

  1. Built-In Release Mechanism

It is a given that your typical food grade IBC tote will store either a liquid or a ground material, like flour or corn. As such, manufacturers generally design them with a built-in release mechanism. That mechanism could be a valve, spigot, or any other means of egress.

Why is this advantageous? Because the IBC tote can be emptied without having to open the entire thing up. You also do not have to tip the tote. It can be emptied in a flat position, making it safer for those involved.

  1. Cleaning an IBC Tote

There are not too many downsides to food-grade IBC totes. But the biggest one is cleaning. Because IBC totes are designed to remain closed except when being refilled, they do not offer a whole lot of access space for cleaning. Yet they still have to be cleaned between uses.

Cleaning an IBC tote requires a piece of specialized equipment and a safe cleaning solution. The cleaning solution is injected under pressure before being emptied so that the tote can be rinsed. If the pressure is not high enough or the cleaning solution not strong enough, the tote may not come out of the procedure completely clean. Therefore, food processors and packagers have to be extremely careful to prevent contamination.

None of this is to say that 55-gallon drums do not have a place in food service. They do. Some products are still more easily and more efficiently shipped utilizing them. But more often than not, the food-grade IBC tote is the shipping container of choice. It is uniform in size and dimension, takes up less space, and makes for more efficient shipping all the way around.