Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Food Safety’ Category

Smaller Supermarket Formats Dictate Fresh Refrigeration Approaches

JohnWallace_Blog_Image John Wallace | Director of Innovation, Retail Solutions

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Meeting the demands of emergent small-format supermarkets requires a new approach to — or adaption of existing — refrigeration architectures. This blog is based on a recent article that discusses available options. Read the full article here.

One of the biggest trends shaping the food retail industry is the shrinking store footprint. Instead of building large mega centers that once dominated the landscape, today’s retailers are opting to extend their brands into smaller stores, typically in densely populated areas. The small-format trend is part of a larger evolution — one that emphasizes high-quality, fresh, perishable offerings while appealing to consumer desire for more convenience.

Food retailers that are embracing these changes must also evaluate how their approaches to refrigeration architectures and controls will also need to adapt. Fortunately, there is no shortage of available options to help operators make this transition.

Scale down for “centralized” familiarity
A traditional big-box supermarket has more than 100 cases (a mix of medium- and low-temperature cases) supported by centralized refrigeration racks and controls designed to optimize large systems of this type. If you shrink these systems down for smaller formats with less merchandise, it stands to reason that you may not need as many racks. With stores shrinking from more than 100,000 to less than 20,000 square feet, they simply won’t need the same refrigeration horsepower.

In many cases, operators may still want to use centralized architectures for both medium- and low-temperature cases, but appropriately scaled down to suit the small format. Often, we’re able to design a system with one rack to manage medium- and low-temperature needs. Since it’s a much smaller centralized system to support fewer case lineups, it has much shorter refrigeration lines running out to the cases.

From a system controls standpoint, this smaller centralized architecture isn’t drastically different, so retailers can achieve relatively the same look and feel in both large and small store formats — while also providing the flexibility to scale across the full spectrum of store sizes.

Explore “distributed” efficiencies

While distributed refrigeration systems have been preferred in large supermarkets in Europe and other global regions, they are also well-suited for the small-format emergence in the U.S. Distributed architectures come in different formats and offer a cost-effective refrigeration strategy for smaller stores. Preferred distributed architectures include:

  • “Self-contained” cases (i.e., a completely integrated refrigeration system within the case); also provide spot-merchandizing flexibility
  • Modular refrigeration systems capable of supporting small lines of cases sharing similar characteristics

Distributed architectures also have a greater impact on the way controls are set up and utilized. In a distributed scenario, electronic controllers are installed at the refrigeration cases. Additional sensors are typically required to capture data, allow for better control, and support remote troubleshooting activities.

Standardize your footprint

When adding smaller-format stores to an enterprise network, it may not be in your best interest to introduce a completely new refrigeration and controls platform. For retailers with multi-site networks of large- and small-format stores, it’s especially important to select refrigeration architectures and control platforms that provide a standardized view.

When evaluating refrigeration options, look for platforms that support the evolution of internet of things (IoT) in refrigeration and facility management. These systems represent the next generation of operational efficiencies by offering cloud connectivity, predictive maintenance and advanced multi-site management software.

 

Supermarket Upgrades That Impact Energy Efficiency and Cost Savings

DarrenCooper Darren Cooper | President

Renteknik Group

At the E360 Forum in Houston last fall, Nik Rasskazovskiy, director of business development for ClearFlow Energy Finance, and I discussed the role of energy services companies (ESCOs) in helping grocery operators achieve and sustain long-term energy savings with end-to-end solutions. We shared our insights and experiences, as well as best practices and real-world case studies. Read more below, then view the full E360 Forum presentation.

According to Progressive Grocer Magazine, food retail is an almost $700 billion industry. Operating on razor-thin margins (generally a little more than 1 percent and only seeming to get slimmer every year), the industry is always on the lookout for new ways to cut costs and boost profitability.

Already making a considerable positive impact on the bottom line in other industries, ESCOs can offer grocery operators a new opportunity to reduce their energy spend — and increase profits.

Reducing energy spend is already a key objective for supermarket operators. ESCOs offer a systematic way to implement sustainable, long-term efficiency plans across their fleet with minimal risk or initial out-of-pocket expense.

How does it work?

ESCOs are in the business of developing, designing, funding and ultimately building turnkey solutions that save energy, reduce energy costs, and decrease operations and maintenance costs at their customers’ facilities.

ESCOs actually guarantee their clients a specific level of energy cost savings from the proposed project. They are subsequently compensated via the actual performance of the project, earning a percentage of the overall energy savings dollars for an agreed upon length of time. At the end of the term, the client keeps the savings for perpetuity.

In the presentation, I said, “The opportunities are real and the savings are real. We’re not doing anything that is really groundbreaking. This is not new technology. This is proven technology that you can actually utilize and implement in your systems. The ESCO part means that there’s no upfront cash necessary. We’re now in a position to provide this as a turnkey solution. We can work with your preferred equipment supplier and your preferred contractor, without needing any money, so you’re cash flow positive from day one.” And I meant every word of it.

The first step in your journey to energy efficiency: establishing a baseline

To identify savings opportunities, you must first fully understand your current energy consumption. Fortunately, today’s device-level power monitoring technologies offer real-time insights into your control systems and can help create “power profiles” by tracking usage across a wide range of temperatures and conditions.

Beginning from that baseline, the ESCO team works with food retailers to conduct comprehensive building and systems audits to identify opportunities for sustainable, long-term energy efficiency upgrades. This can take the form of refrigeration upgrades, variable frequency drives (VFDs), new cases or case controls, HVAC and demand control ventilation, and even renewable technologies if they make sense.

A proven process that’s yielded positive results, the ESCO methodology is sound and straightforward:

  • Building system audit completed — opportunities identified, target savings established
  • Client and ESCO enter into guaranteed, performance-based energy savings performance contract
  • ESCO secures financing
  • Project is built and commissioned
  • Ongoing monitoring and verification ensure that target efficiency savings are being met
  • Lender is repaid from savings
  • At the end of the term, the client keeps all savings

“It’s really a win-win situation,” noted Rasskazovskiy, who’s successfully navigated the financial end of projects across multiple industries. “Once the ESCO organizes everything, implements the project and the savings start trickling in, there’s a management process that verifies that the actual savings have been achieved. Those savings are shared between the end customer and the ESCO to pay out all the services costs, including financing. After the term of the contract is done, the customer is left with the same equipment and gets to enjoy 100 percent of the savings going forward.”

To learn more about ESCOs and the retail food industry, including real-world savings examples, watch the video here.

 

Beyond Saving: What’s Next in Supermarket Power Management?

JamesJackson_Blog_Image James Jackson | Business Development Manager
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Last fall, a gathering of food retailers, industry professionals and energy experts converged in Houston for our latest E360 Forum. This daylong event was packed with the latest news, views and best practices on hot-button industry issues: regulations, emerging technologies and more.

Matt Smith, project manager for San Diego Gas & Electric’s Emerging Technologies Group, and I explored fresh ideas on what the future holds for supermarket power management. What follows are just a few of our observations.

Future of lighting rebates dim

Utility incentive programs for food retailers, in all markets, are changing. Lighting upgrades and retrofits fueled by rebate incentives were once low-hanging fruit for commercial and industrial consumers alike. However, laborious rebate application processes have contributed to waning interest and participation — especially among food retailers. Policy and regulations have also had an impact. As CFL and LED technologies become standard, rebates are no longer seen as necessary to incentivize adoption and won’t help utilities reach their energy-savings targets. Now energy providers are looking for other more innovative and targeted ways to incentivize efficiency.

Collaboration key to more customer-centric incentives

Admittedly, supermarkets are an underserved market for utility companies. There are simply not a lot of programs designed with the distinct needs of grocery retailers in mind. However, Matt thinks this is changing.

“We’re moving toward a more vertical approach on how we run programs in the sense that we’re serving a customer segment rather than a [category] like refrigeration … That will lead to programs that are better suited for specific customer segments like supermarkets or convenience stores.”

Matt went on to say that utilities want to hear from food retailers. They welcome the opportunities to connect and collaborate — either directly or virtually. Many offer cooperative bodies, online forums and other ways to engage. In California, utilities and other energy professionals have created the Emerging Technologies Coordinating Council (www.etcc-ca.com) as way to collaborate, develop and facilitate new and emerging technologies. Other regions offer similar resources and channels.

Pay-for-performance programs offer opportunities for efficiency and innovation

Pay-for-performance programs are another relatively recent energy-efficiency trend — one that doesn’t rely on rebates or other incentive-based equipment purchases. It allows participants to identify various energy-saving measures. Payments are made over time and are based on actual energy savings measured at the meter.

The beauty of pay-for-performance programs is that they can offer an integrated, more holistic approach to energy efficiency. Savings can come from building retrofits and equipment upgrades as well as from behavioral or operational and maintenance activities. These programs also shift the responsibility for energy savings from the utilities to energy-efficiency project implementers — and can be real incubators for innovation, efficiency and new technologies. Less prescriptive and more proactive, they offer greater opportunity for collaboration and invention.

Power markets and effective demand management

Many utilities are incentivizing commercial and industrial customers to participate in demand management/demand response programs. These are developed to cut electric consumption during peak times of the day when electricity is in high demand. Effective demand management rewards customers who can conserve when the grid is taxed the most. While a proven practice in other industries and abroad, these programs are not commonly employed among food retailers in the U.S., even though the opportunities and technologies are available.

The high usage of electricity by supermarkets makes it very attractive to participate in these programs. However, reliability and flexibility in a supermarket’s HVACR and energy requirements are absolutely essential for success. Technologies like today’s smart refrigeration systems and thermal storage are ways to optimize thermal potential by shifting electricity usage at expensive times to lower-rate periods.

More grocery retailers of today are looking hard at current HVACR systems and exploring strategies and technologies to shift energy consumption without compromising food safety. We’re excited about the possibilities.

As I shared, “Demand management is becoming a really big deal using supermarkets. I use the term ‘virtual power plant’ pretty easily in this conversation. If you’ve got a flexible store and can provide thermal storage, you could actually use that store as a virtual asset for the utility. [It creates] a kind of push and pull with the power demand … All this stuff is extremely exciting, especially in this segment or business.”

Demand management programs and today’s power markets represent a real opportunity to generate revenue by using thermal capacity, transforming your energy-eating equipment into an energy asset.

To learn more about any of these programs and the emerging technologies that are driving them, watch the full E360 Forum presentation.

Prevent Food Poisoning Outbreaks with FSMA and Environmental Monitoring

JulianHough_Blog_Image Julian Hough | Product Marketing Communication Specialist
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Symptoms of a foodborne illness outbreak

For companies involved in food handling, the potential symptoms of a food poisoning outbreak include: local or national recalls; fines; legal action; potential financial losses; and tarnished brand reputations. With this in mind, compliance with new regulations and laws regarding food safety and the use of facility-wide environmental monitoring are your best protections against these symptoms.

A serious problem

Food poisoning is a major cause of death in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), foodborne illnesses affect 48 million Americans annually, resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. And in an age of 24/7 news coverage, any food poisoning outbreak can put a company under a harsh public relations spotlight. In 2015, at least 64 people contracted salmonella from tomatoes at a Mexican quick-serve restaurant. It resulted in two class action lawsuits and eroded consumer trust. A top-selling ice cream brand recalled all of its products in 2017 when 10 reported cases of listeria resulted in three deaths. In late 2018, all of the romaine lettuce in the U.S. was pulled from stores for a month while the CDC searched for the source of its e-coli contamination. The fact is, health officials, the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will work to track down the source of virtually all food poisoning outbreaks all the way down the supply chain and cold chain.

The risk comes from not seeing the problems

All too often, the processors found at fault had no idea they were putting consumers at risk. Like all processors, they have to balance the cost and burden of ensuring food safety while still maintaining a profitable business. But many have little way of knowing — or the data to warn them — that they were not maintaining safe handling procedures nor providing a safe environment for food safety.

FSMA: addressing the problem

With the signing of the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2011, a series of regulations set out seven steps to prevent food poisoning outbreaks through prevention programs and environmental monitoring. The FSMA reflected the need for a modern, global food safety system, “a system in which industry is systematically, every day, putting in place the measures that we know are effective in preventing contamination” (Michael R. Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, 2015).

Regulations like the FSMA are often regarded as an expensive burden. But when you realize that food poisoning outbreaks cost the food processing industry $75 billion per year, investing in preventing problems rather than paying for the consequences makes FSMA compliance an economic imperative.

That’s why Emerson  has been tirelessly working to help ensure our Cooper-Atkins products and solutions are in compliance with FSMA mandates, and providing environmental monitoring systems and end-to-end data services that help control and manage food safety anywhere in the cold chain.

How does the FSMA affect you?

New laws were passed in 2016 to bolster the 2011 FSMA for both large and small FDA-registered companies. To comply, companies must:

At Emerson, we have the expertise, products and systems to help you implement fully compliant HARPC systems and controls, as well as consult on your cGMP education and training programs.  Emerson’s Cooper Atkins business specializes in advanced environmental monitoring systems.

The importance of environmental monitoring

There are many areas along the processing chain where food may be compromised. Storing, receiving and holding food-related items at a temperature that prohibits bacterial growth are required parts of your company’s HARPC plan, making integrated, wireless environmental monitoring systems a must-have.

Processing facilities that invest in integrated, wireless temperature monitoring systems benefit in numerous ways:

  • Eliminating manual labor
  • Streamlining the collection of environmental data
  • Creating custom reporting
  • Complying with new FSMA laws and FDA rulings

As a leading manufacturer of wireless monitoring solutions, Emerson offers a range of environmental monitoring systems through our Cooper-Atkins business. TempTrak Enterprise® is a facility-wide solution that can monitor an unlimited number of points in unlimited locations — all from one software platform. NotifEye® kits are affordable, streamlined and self-installed systems for more localized operations. Both are exception-based systems: they only send out alerts when preset limits are exceeded, saving time and labor while protecting your inventory and, more importantly, brand integrity.

An investment in protection

When you look at the human cost of food poisoning outbreaks, as well as the millions of dollars in recall costs and destroyed reputations, FSMA compliance and facility-wide environmental monitoring and data systems become a highly cost-effective investment. With compliance and a data trail, you can not only prevent foodborne outbreaks, but also verify compliance and protect your brand.

Julian Hough is a product marketing specialist with Cooper-Atkins, a business unit of Emerson that has been manufacturing temperature monitoring equipment for 130 years.

 

How Data Loggers Streamline Food Safety Compliance

JulianHough_Blog_Image Julian Hough | Product Marketing Communication Specialist
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Imagine if you had enough money to put 8.5 million people through four years of private college at an average annual cost of $30k. The same amount would buy a Prius at its sticker price of $23,810 — for roughly 40 percent of American families. That’s what $1.6 trillion buys, and the combined amount that Americans spent in 2015 on food and beverages in grocery stores and dining out.1

Today’s tech-savvy millennials are acutely aware of the food they consume. When an outbreak of foodborne illness occurs, the subjects of food safety and consumer health immediately become top news stories. And CEOs are taking notice. In a 2017 interview, McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook stated, “Food safety is McDonald’s number one priority.”2

Food safety regulations and compliancy

In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) implemented the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) under President Obama’s leadership; these laws were updated in 2016 to enforce best practices. Industry standards such as Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls (HARPC) and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) were designed to help food processors identify, control and prevent hazards through a systematic approach. HACCP compliance is currently mandatory for meat, poultry, seafood, dairy and juice processors in the United States, as well as retail food services. Because of its success in the food and meat industries, HACCP plans are also being applied to non-food industries.

Under the existing FSMA 2016 mandates, FDA-registered food facilities, manufacturing facilities and processors must:

  • Establish and maintain food safety systems that comply with HACCP/HARPC plans
  • Verify the controls are effective by monitoring, testing and taking corrective actions and documenting the outcomes
  • Maintain risk-based supply chain programs for raw materials and ingredients and provide education and training to employees

With the goal of proactively preventing foodborne illness outbreaks rather than reacting after the fact, FSMA laws helped established a positive path forward. The rise of wireless data-logging technologies has since been embraced by a spectrum of processing facilities — from meat and dairy processors to laboratories — to help maintain compliance.

Why do you need data loggers? 

Data loggers have becoming essential tools that facility managers can use to independently verify information in food retail and processing facilities. By identifying environmental factors that could affect product quality and invalidate food safety plans, data loggers help facility managers meet compliance standards, as well as monitor other key facility metrics, such as: energy conservation, recordkeeping in a cold storage facility, or air handler cycle frequencies.

Traditional methods used to monitor critical limits and maintain an accurate recordkeeping system come with drawbacks. Typically, these are strip chart recorder (with moving parts) or a thermometer that requires an employee to manually check and document conditions. It’s easy to see how these methods are inadequate and threaten the integrity of food safety plans. Alternatively, data loggers do not rely on mechanical, moving parts or constant manual attention from employees.

Temperature monitoring is especially critical for compliance with USDA and FDA regulations. Data loggers can be implemented into HACCP plans to easily achieve this goal. Since each HACCP plan is unique to each facility, the data logging solution is dependent upon an end user’s specific application requirements. This not only saves, time, energy and money, but it also helps facility managers comply with new regulations.

How do data loggers work?

Data loggers are electronic measurement instruments that record environmental parameters such as temperature, humidity, pressure, pH and much more. Data is retrieved through a wireless connection or downloaded directly to a PC. There, records of the data are generated in graphical and tabular formats and include date and time stamps to fulfill compliance requirements. These records can then be saved electronically or printed to provide to the appropriate regulatory agencies to prove a facility’s compliance.

Data loggers are a cost-effective means of extremely accurate data collection and recordkeeping over long periods of time and in extreme environments. To ensure data accuracy, most data-logging companies provide services to maintain the correct and consistent calibration of devices. A calibration certificate indicates the date and condition of the services, providing the documentation required by most regulatory agencies to prove proper periodic calibration.

Choosing a data logger provider

For more than 130 years, Cooper-Atkins has built a reputation as a trusted provider of environmental monitoring solutions. As a leading manufacturer in the field, Cooper-Atkins recently added state-of-the-art, data-logging technology to its stable of HACCP-compliant, wireless monitoring products.

According to Scott D’Aniello, vice president of industrial and food processing for Cooper-Atkins, there is no room for guesswork in the food supply chain.

“Good data is essential to controlling production and creating a consistently high-quality product,” he said.

Cooper-Atkins was awarded the prestigious “Global Supplier of the Year 2015” by McDonald’s.

“This recognition speaks volumes about who we are and how we can help facility managers. Today’s technological innovations are helping to ease the burden and keep food safe for consumers,” said D’Aniello.

Click here to learn more about Cooper-Atkins data loggers.

%d bloggers like this: