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Posts tagged ‘Food Retail’

Addressing Increased Consumer Focus on Safety and Freshness

Doug Thurston | Vice President of Sales

Cold Chain-Digital Solutions at Emerson

Half of all U.S. consumers worry about the safety of fresh and frozen foods during transportation to stores. That’s the big discovery from a recent Emerson study.[i] Half of consumers also decide where to shop based on the quality and freshness of their foods.

  • 62% agree better technology has a role to play in keeping their food safe to eat.
  • 56% say better data is needed to track proper food safety practices from farm to table.
  • 51% are less likely to shop from stores that aren’t using — nor having suppliers use — the latest technologies available to keep their food safe.

That’s a wake-up call for food retailers who have not yet made ensuring food quality and safety among their top priorities. Across the United States, grocery stores and supermarkets play vital roles in food production and the supply chain. They’re uniquely positioned to coordinate an interdisciplinary focus on cold chain management, from supplier partners to monitoring shipping logistics.

Starting point: Establish proper temperatures

Effective management of the retail food cold chain often begins with ensuring proper harvesting times in consultation with preferred produce providers and establishing the temperature setpoints for each commodity type.

Respiration rates of harvested produce can be impacted by the setpoints; produce cooling processes can also place excess strain on food products. For example:

  • Pulling heat from products picked in 90 °F heat down to a 33 °F transport temperature is not ideal.
  • The goal should be to limit the variance between picked and storage temperatures.

This is also why it’s extremely important to be able to monitor temperatures in produce pre-cooling sheds.

The age of harvest fields is another consideration. Late-season fields experience excess crop strain; thus, extra efforts must be taken to reduce these impacts after harvest.

Ensuring food safety compliance

Food retailers already are shifting to more proactive prevention in order to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This federal law gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to mandate comprehensive, science-based and preventative controls governing the safe storage, handling and preparation of food throughout the supply chain.

Grocers can take additional steps to help ensure compliance, such as:

  • Establishing a corporate food safety specialist and placing quality control (QC) experts in distribution centers (DCs) and/or logistics operations
  • Investing in technologies that enable the continuous collection of data related to food safety and providing the necessary documentation to validate these initiatives on request

Keeping up with e-commerce fulfillment

Not only did COVID-19 permanently reshape consumers’ buying habits, retailers’ responses to new consumer behaviors also introduced food safety challenges. Chief among them are:

  • Chilled fresh and frozen goods for click-and-collect fulfillment must be kept within their optimal temperature ranges throughout in-store picking, order staging and customer pickup.
  • Direct-to-consumer deliveries have the added responsibility of maintaining temperatures in delivery vehicles.

In both new fulfillment models, grocers must make extra efforts to mitigate improper handling or cross-contamination risks.

What’s next: Steps to enhance safety and quality

Meeting these new customer expectations can require additional effort and investment. This is not a time to bend food safety rules or skip best practices to save money. Cutting costs almost always backfires by creating shrink and introducing potential safety risks.

Instead, grocery retailers can take steps to help ensure better food safety and quality. Start by establishing a temperature-monitoring program. Maintaining tight temperature setpoint control for all types of fresh and frozen commodities is a key factor in preserving freshness and enhancing safety.

Retailers also should plan for any scenario that can occur during fresh and frozen food’s journey from farm to fork. Without that planning — and coordination by retailers with their food providers and shippers — the likelihood of shrink and food safety risks will only increase.

 

[i] Emerson, “Emerson Survey: New Food Safety Technologies Rising in Importance for Consumers,” December 1, 2020, https://www.emerson.com/en-us/news/corporate/food-safety-survey-2020 (accessed May 17, 2021).

Nine Best Practices for Ensuring Food Safety and Quality

Doug Thurston | Vice President of Sales

Cold Chain-Digital Solutions at Emerson

Food retailers have long focused on ensuring food quality and safety; now consumers are increasingly concerned about these issues as well. In a recent Emerson study of 1,000 U.S. consumers, 51% said they:

  • Worry about the safety of fresh and frozen foods during transportation to stores
  • Would be less likely to shop from stores that aren’t using the latest technologies throughout their supply chain to help ensure food safety

So the challenge for retailers has become how to meet these consumer expectations while also protecting their brand reputations. The solution? Adopt best practices that enable them to maintain strict temperature adherence for fresh and frozen products at every step of the food supply chain.

Preserving Quality and Minimizing Loss

Delivering poor-quality perishable products or past-ripe produce only erodes customers’ loyalty and gives them a reason to switch to different brands — or shop at a competitor’s grocery store. So temperature control for quality (TCQ) initiatives throughout the cold chain are critical to maximizing freshness and minimizing shrink.

If produce becomes too ripe — from poor temperature control or time-of-harvest conditions — it will naturally have a shorter shelf life. Pre-conditioned fruits such as avocados should be carefully monitored to ensure they are continuously kept at the correct temperatures.

Maintaining Proper Temperatures for Safety

Keeping shipping temperatures at precise setpoints throughout the journey from farm to fork is critical to ensuring that food is safe to consume and also preserving perishable food quality. Temperature control safety (TCS) initiatives are mainly concerned with the safe shipping of fresh and frozen meats, seafood, select produce and dairy products. If temperatures deviate from safe ranges or become too warm:

  • The safety of fresh and frozen meat along with seafood will degrade
  • Product will purge (or release water) initially, then begin to grow and spread bacteria, which increases the risk of foodborne illness

Cross-contamination can also occur when meat, seafood and produce are stacked together closely within a transport shipping container or arranged on a stack of pallets — which increases the potential for foodborne illness outbreaks and customer injuries. Improper sanitization procedures between loads can also lead to cross-contamination.

Nine Best Practices for Perishable Food Transport

So how can grocery retailers ensure food safety and quality?

A holistic approach that considers key factors at every step of the perishable supply chain must be followed along with careful coordination among producers and shippers. Here are nine best practices for retailers to adopt from inbound harvest and transport to outbound shipping and receipt from distribution centers (DCs):

  1. Pre-cooling: Stabilize product temperatures with a process after harvest and prior to loading in refrigerated shipping containers.
  2. Transport refrigeration: Ensure proper refrigeration and insulation of reefer trucks and trailers.
  3. Inspection: Visually inspect trailers between loads to ensure a clean and contaminant-free space.
  4. Temperature stability: Maintain continuous setpoint temperatures throughout a trip; do not permit the use of fuel-saver mode or starting/stopping of refrigeration.
  5. Calibration: Annually calibrate the thermistor(s) of reefer trucks and/or trains.
  6. Loading: Correctly load pallets to enable proper airflow and consistent temperatures from the front to the back of trailers.
  7. Load transfer and receipt: Do not allow trailers to sit in receiving docks for extended durations, especially in warm regions; limit opening of trailer doors to maintain holding temperatures.
  8. Avoid mixed loads: Avoid trying to save fuel costs by mixing loads with a combination of fresh and/or frozen products with different ideal temperature setpoints.
  9. Data logging: Enable the automatic capturing and recording of trip temperature data for reporting and verification of quality assurance and to help resolve disputes or questions over rejected loads.

Pick an Expert Partner for Cold Chain Management

Protecting consumer safety is an ethical prerequisite for food retailers. At the same time, it’s important to remember that it only takes one incident to permanently impact your business reputation and potentially incur the significant financial impacts of fines and litigation. That makes it imperative for retailers to clearly understand everything that contributes to food quality and safety throughout the food supply chain. Then, they should partner with an expert to help them deploy the modern tools and technologies needed to address the many challenges associated with perishable cold chain management.

 

Pandemic Creates Lasting Impact on Food Retailers and Commercial Refrigeration

Andre Patenaude | Director – Solutions Integration,

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solution’s Business

The year 2020 was an inflection point for the food retail industry. While many restaurants closed for in-person dining due to the COVID-19 pandemic, supermarkets and other food retailers were considered essential businesses and remained open. But for those responsible for these operations, this meant quickly adapting to new fulfillment scenarios, as many shoppers sought online grocery-ordering options such as curbside pickup and/or home delivery. I recently contributed to an ACHR The NEWS article where we discussed how the events of 2020 changed the food retail landscape and will continue to impact the commercial refrigeration industry in 2021 and beyond.

Online Retail Drives Refrigeration Decisions

As vaccine distribution increases and the COVID-19 pandemic hopefully recedes, the impacts of the pandemic will be felt well into the future. From a food retail perspective, the acceleration of e-commerce adoption appears to have permanently altered consumers’ buying behaviors and shifted the retail landscape.

According to a 2020 study by grocery e-commerce specialist Mercatus and research firm Incisiv, the growth rate of online grocery retail is expected to make up 21.5% of all grocery sales by 2025, representing a more than 60% increase compared pre-pandemic projections. As consumers continue to embrace both click-and-collect and home delivery options, many leading food retailers are rethinking their refrigeration strategies and expanding their fulfillment capabilities to meet both near-term and long-term projections.

The sheer volume of e-commerce sales took many food retailers by surprise in 2020 and has led them to take steps to shore up their online order fulfillment infrastructures. These include investments in additional refrigeration equipment and cold storage space — whether for in-house, click-and-collect operations, micro-fulfillment centers (MFCs) or even dark stores.

In addition, many retailers are evaluating their existing systems to determine if there’s available capacity to potentially tap into. Where there is not, distributed strategies such as stand-alone condensing units or self-contained cold storage are ideal solutions for creating additional refrigeration capacity. Of course, any new system designs or major retrofits will require more thorough consideration with respect to how these systems would align with retailers’ long-term sustainability goals.

It’s also important for contractors to continue playing a key role in helping retailers to make these decisions. They must be prepared with the knowledge and expertise in order to advise retailers on all the available short- and long-term refrigeration strategies — from self-contained propane cases to full CO2 systems to more distributed equipment architectures.

Cold Chain Data Tracking, Monitoring and Control

Another likely permanent impact will be the increased collective focus on cold chain tracking, monitoring and data analytics. Vaccine distribution challenges have highlighted the importance of monitoring product temperatures during transit – similar to the cold chain journey for food.

The adoption of temperature tracking, monitoring and control technologies used for the vaccines will likely accelerate the integration of these tools within the food cold chain — from farm to fork. This presents an opportunity to improve the working relationships, cooperation and technologies among producers, shippers and retailers to create an unbroken chain of temperature certainty throughout the food cold chain.

With supermarkets becoming one-stop shops for essential consumer needs — from freshly prepared and perishable foods to dry goods, pharmaceuticals and mini health care clinics — retailers have a variety of data streams strictly related to temperatures that they need to manage and monitor in order to preserve food quality and safety, as well as ensure proper vaccine storage. They also need to continuously track and monitor the performance of essential equipment and systems such as refrigeration, HVAC and lighting.

Fortunately, technological improvements and increased adoption of the internet of things (IoT) are giving supermarkets the abilities to capture, access, interpret and analyze data to deliver higher-value facility management solutions. Emerson’s Lumity™ supervisory control platform is designed to aggregate these data streams into consolidated views and provide insights to help retailers simplify their increasing facility management challenges.

From the perspectives of cold chain management, power management, equipment performance and preventative maintenance, we’re helping supermarket operators to bring all these aspects together within one cloud and one view — with robust data analytics to provide insights into each of these critical areas.

Factors Which Drive Innovations Toward the Next Generation of Refrigeration System Design

Katrina Krites | Marketing and Business Development

Manager, Food Retail

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solutions Business

The coronavirus pandemic has increased the retail food industry’s collective focus on food quality, safety and sanitation in supermarkets while driving consumer adoption of click-and-collect. At the same time, industry regulations impact retailer behaviors. These factors have brought more attention upon refrigeration systems. In a recent Progressive Grocer article (pages 76–80), I explored how refrigeration products, monitoring and sensing devices can support these initiatives.

Impacting food quality and safety

A grocer’s approach to refrigeration is a fundamental part of creating ideal shopping experiences for consumers. Starting with the configuration of the display cases, merchandising strategies are designed to present food in the most appealing ways. Many cases are now equipped with enhanced controls that turn on lights when a shopper approaches. By leveraging case controls and the internet of things (IoT) technologies, retailers can more effectively keep perishable foods within ideal temperature ranges, thus positively impacting food quality and safety while maximizing shelf life.

Continued improvements in data analytics and cloud-based, IoT technologies are enabling connectivity among equipment and devices, which will allow retailers to achieve much greater holistic controls of not only their refrigeration assets, but also other key facility systems, such as HVAC and lighting. These are areas in which Emerson has invested significant resources and will continue to do so in the future.

Closely related to that are the abilities to monitor and track the temperatures and locations of perishable foods throughout various steps along the cold chain journey.

Acceleration of click-and-collect

If what we’ve seen in 2020 is any indication, the supermarket industry can expect the continued adoption of online fulfillment options. This change in consumer shopping preferences will continue to drive innovations in the next generation of refrigeration system design.

With the growing popularity of click-and-collect, retailers are adding capacity specifically for these cold-storage purposes. With variable-capacity modulation capabilities that can adapt to changing load variations, the Copeland™ digital X-Line series provides refrigeration flexibility and reliability in click-and-collect applications. In addition, its onboard controls can be networked into a supermarket’s building management system (BMS) for complete refrigeration control and monitoring.

Our facility management controls (E2) and enterprise software (Connect+) also help retailers to remotely monitor their refrigeration assets, optimize system performance, and provide data-driven, proactive alerts of potential equipment issues.

The role of regulations

The regulation of refrigerants continues to be a source of great uncertainty for our industry. For several years, regulations have targeted the phase-down of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants to reduce carbon emissions and their potential contribution to climate change. Many retailers face global, national and state regulatory mandates that ban the use of refrigerants with high global warming potential (GWP) and call for the deployment of energy-efficient refrigeration equipment. As a result, the industry is undergoing a shift toward alternative refrigerants with lower GWP levels and no ozone depletion potential (ODP).

All of this has helped to bring low-GWP refrigeration solutions into the spotlight, and Emerson supports a wide range of options for retailers along the sustainability continuum.

Whether it’s natural refrigerants like CO2 or propane, or lower-GWP synthetic A1 or A2L blends, Emerson equipment is designed to cover the full spectrum of refrigerant preferences in various types of architectures. It’s important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for this refrigerant transition; food retailers are employing a wide range of strategies, depending on their unique regulatory and sustainability mandates.

Many operators simply may not immediately require a drastic reduction in refrigerant GWP and instead are seeking a more gradual transition toward their future sustainability goals. We are helping these retailers to develop equipment strategies that will allow them to transition to lower-GWP refrigerants today, while giving them a pathway for achieving reduced GWP levels in the future.

Energy regulations are also in play, and Emerson is committed to helping the industry meet Department of Energy (DOE) efficiency targets for commercial refrigeration equipment. For example, our recent launch of the Copeland digital X-Line series is designed to meet the DOE’s annual walk-in energy factor (AWEF) efficiency standards for walk-in coolers. These products can also help operators in the state of California to comply with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) requirements for small-format grocery and convenience stores. The X-Line series utilizes low-GWP R-448A and is designed to service a limited number of medium- or low-temperature refrigeration fixtures — making it ideal for small, urban store formats or large supermarkets seeking to add refrigeration loads outside of their existing direct expansion (DX) systems.

Innovation throughout the cold chain

Leveraging the power of IoT, operational data and the software that can extract insights and value from this information will also play much larger roles in future supermarket refrigeration strategies. To that end, continued efforts to achieve connectivity throughout the various links of the cold chain will allow supermarkets to gain much greater control of food quality and safety well before it reaches the shelves of grocery stores.

 

 

Grow Your Bottom Line With Sustainable Refrigeration Retrofits

Katrina Krites | Marketing and Business Development

Manager, Food Retail

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solutions Business

Across the food retail market, supermarket operators are re-evaluating their legacy refrigeration architectures. A dynamic mix of regulatory mandates, sustainability goals and the emergence of e-commerce fulfillment models are dictating changes in the status quo of refrigeration. We recently published an article in the RSES Journal that discussed refrigeration retrofit strategies that allow retailers to meet their sustainability objectives while improving their bottom lines.

When considering refrigeration retrofits, food retailers must remember that sustainability is a two-sided coin. While reducing leaks of global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants is important for lowering direct emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), many supermarket operators often overlook the potential for indirect GHG emissions caused by poor system energy efficiencies.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that supermarkets are the most electricity-intensive of all commercial buildings. Commercial refrigeration systems account for 40–60% of supermarket energy consumption and are by far the greatest contributor to indirect GHG emissions. Combined, direct and indirect emissions make up the true measure of sustainability, or a system’s total equivalent warming impact (TEWI).

Reduce direct emissions with lower-GWP refrigerants

The transition from high-GWP refrigerants and those with ozone depletion potential (ODP) is inevitable. Common legacy refrigerant options such as the HFC R-404A will be phased down while hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) such as R-22 are being phased out. But this does not necessarily mean operators should immediately transition to an alternative refrigerant or embark on a complete refrigeration rebuild.

Lower-GWP A1 refrigerants, such as the hydrofluoroolefin (HFO) blend R-448A/R-449A, are available that allow end-users to retrofit their existing system, reduce GWP from direct emissions by up to 60%, and still maintain a familiar operational footprint similar to the one they have today.

For those operators currently using R-22, the transition to R-448A/R-449A is relatively straightforward and requires very few substantive architecture changes. The transition from R-404A to R-448A/R-449A is slightly more involved but can still be accomplished without significant architectural changes. R-448A/R-449A produces compressor discharge temperatures that run approximately 10–12% higher than R-404A. This may require additional compressor cooling mitigation such as head cooling fans, demand cooling modules, or a liquid or vapor injected scroll compressor. Consult your compressor OEM’s guidelines for specific retrofit procedures.

Improve system energy efficiencies

Any system retrofit or upgrade comes at a cost, so food retailers must ensure their investment delivers long-term viability and returns to their bottom line. This is where reducing indirect emissions by improving energy efficiencies plays such an important role. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that every dollar saved in electricity is equivalent to increasing sales by $59.

While it makes sense to undertake energy-efficiency measures in conjunction with a refrigerant transition, energy optimization best practices can — and should — be performed periodically on all systems. Before considering any retrofit options, start by performing a system assessment to determine your current performance metrics — which in many cases will deviate significantly from the system’s original commissioned baseline.

The next logical step in the energy optimization process is to enable a variable-capacity modulation strategy by either upgrading to a digitally modulated compressor or adding a variable-frequency drive (VFD) to a fixed-capacity compressor. Variable-capacity modulation provides significant system improvements, not just to energy efficiency but also to overall refrigeration system performance, reliability and lifespan. Benefits include:

  • Precise matching of capacity to changing refrigeration loads
  • Tight control over suction manifold pressures, allowing increased setpoint and energy savings
  • Improved case temperature precision
  • Reduced compressor cycling (on/off)

In digital compressor retrofit scenarios, we’ve demonstrated that replacing an underperforming, fixed-capacity compressor with a variable-capacity compressor can result in an additional 4% energy savings — even before activating digital modulation capabilities. And once digital modulation is activated, operators can expect an additional 12% energy savings.

Whether you’re trying to reduce your direct emissions with lower-GWP refrigerants or seeking to improve energy efficiencies and lower your indirect emissions, Emerson has compression technologies and sustainable refrigeration solutions to help you meet your specific objectives. The Copeland™ digital semi-hermetic and Copeland™ digital scroll compressors provide opportunities to transition to lower-GWP refrigerants and enable variable-capacity modulation to drive energy efficiencies.

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