Retailers, brands must rethink refrigeration & freezing to meet consumer demand for fresh

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Retailers, brands must rethink refrigeration & freezing to meet consumer demand for fresh
Increasing consumer demand for fresh products, including new chilled alternatives to shelf-stable staples such as nutrition bars and baby food, is creating a logistical nightmare for some retailers and manufactures in need of more flexible refrigeration configurations.

Traditionally, refrigerators and freezers have been restricted to the back or center of the store where infrastructure requirements such as higher powered electrical hookups are located and increased cooling to counter the units' waste heat can be directed.

But new technology from Phononic could allow refrigerated products to be placed anywhere in the store – creating new revenue opportunities for retailers and giving a competitive edge to manufacturers of fresh products, according to the CEO of Phononic Tony Atti.

“Our technology is truly disruptive because it uses a semi-conductor approach to cooling and refrigeration”​ combined with a non-toxic and non-flammable refrigerant, which means there is no need for bulky compressors, noisy fans and noxious gasses, explained Atti.

This also means the company's units are smaller and do not put off as much waste heat and, therefore, can be placed more easily throughout the store than the “100-year old compressor-based incumbent,”​ Atti added.

Once retailers and brands stop thinking about refrigerators and freezers as “a fixed space,”​ and instead look them as “usable distributed space," ​they can ​better meet evolving consumer demands for convenience, safety and environmental sustainability, he said.

Increased convenience can lead to increased sales

For support, Atti pointed to the results of a 1,100-person survey​ the company conducted that found 89% of shoppers want a grocery store that understands how to make buying groceries easier and more efficient.

This might include placing together items that often are consumed at the same time, such as refrigerated dips and chips, or cheese and crackers – a concept that 64% of respondents said would make them more likely to buy products.

The new technology also would make placing a refrigerator or freezer at the check-out aisle easier – creating a more convenient space for healthier, fresh, on-the-go items that that 59% of survey respondents said they prefer to the more conventional gum, candy and magazines. In particular, the survey found 41% of consumers would rather have ice cream, wine or beer at the checkout. In addition, 39% said they'd rather have cold beverages, 37% said they wanted single serve fresh items, 34% said fresh juices, 26% said dairy products and 25% listed cut fruits and vegetables as a top-seller by cash registers.

The technology also would allow manufacturers that sell refrigerated fresh alternatives to shelf stable items to stock these products in the same set as legacy products – making it easier for consumers to discover and compare the products, Atti said.

Intelligent technology could drive basket size

The company’s “intelligent”​ refrigeration technology also could help drive basket size by ensuring popular products remains stocked and safe.

Atti explained his company’s technology could help retailers and brands track how often a door is open or close and for how long. This data allows the company to adjust cooling to maximize efficiency without sacrificing safety. It also could help brands and retailers track the performance of a product and signal when something needs to be stocked or swapped out, Atti said.

“This is a big deal in terms of loss, spoilage or waste,”​ he added. It also could help brands and retailers stock items in higher traffic areas to further increase sales.  

The company also can help retailers and brands provide recipes and pairing suggestions to consumers, which was something more than 75% of the company’s survey respondents said they would like, Atti said.

Ultimately, Atti said, with Phononic’s help refrigerators and freezers can do so much more to cater to the modern shoppers needs and to help drive foot traffic through out the store.

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