Katrina Krites | Director of Strategic Marketing, Cold Chain
Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solutions Business
From convenience stores (C-stores) to small-format grocers to large supermarkets, the food retail landscape has shifted significantly in recent years. To survive, store owners and their service technicians have been forced to quickly adapt and implement new operational strategies. In a recent article that appeared in Chain Store Age, I explored five of the leading trends that food retailers will need to be aware of when navigating the road ahead and planning the store of the future. You can also view our formatted article here.
The pandemic created a seismic shift in consumer buying habits, driving many customers toward online, click-and-collect and home delivery for the first time. Although this shift was born out of caution, many consumers have grown to appreciate the lasting convenience of these digital business models. To meet the continuous demand, retailers have had to shore up their e-fulfillment capabilities — without compromising food quality and safety.
Implementing more sustainable operations has also become a higher priority, as environmental regulations call for the phasedown of high-global warming potential (GWP) hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants and improved energy efficiencies. As a result, retailers are closely weighing the impacts of their refrigerant choices, energy consumption and leak detection capabilities.
To adapt to these new market requirements and prepare for a future that will present unexpected challenges, retailers are seeking tools that help them to monitor and manage their operations — in individual stores and across their fleet networks. Modern building management systems (BMS) and supervisory control software are providing the technological foundation on which retailers can meet their myriad operational objectives and scale with future business changes.
With these key factors in mind, let’s look at the five trends shaping the food retail store of the future.
1. Focus on in-store customer experiences.
Creating comfortable, inviting and safe shopping experiences for customers will continue to be a differentiator for food retailers. A BMS is ideal for its ability to continually optimize in-store shopping environments for maximum consumer engagement and occupant well-being, such as preventing excessively cold temperatures in frozen food aisles or poor ventilation in food preparation areas.
A BMS can help store owners/operators to control store ambiance and energy consumption by automatically brightening or dimming shopping aisles, workspaces, shopping zones or curbside pickup stations. Make sure your BMS has advanced and easy-to-use scheduling features to help you optimize lighting.
2. Meet sustainability initiatives.
Meeting a wide range of rigorous sustainability targets requires an understanding of the total equivalent warming impact (TEWI) of HVACR and lighting systems. In refrigeration systems, TEWI accounts for the direct impacts of refrigerant leaks as well as the indirect impacts of a system’s energy consumption. Look for a BMS that will help you to achieve those goals by supporting advanced energy optimization and sustainability best practices, including variable frequency drive (VFD) management, suction group algorithms and effective leak detection programs.
3. Connect to data-driven insights.
Modern food retailers have an opportunity to leverage operational data gathered from connected devices, systems and technologies — also known as the internet of things (IoT) — for an abundance of real-time and historic insights into optimal store performance. A BMS can consolidate all systems, equipment and connected devices while enabling remote, web-based access to allow off-site technicians and staff to remotely monitor systems, troubleshoot and resolve issues. Look for a BMS that supports seamless connectivity with enterprise management software to extend your visibility and insights across a network of stores.
4. Preserve food safety and reduce waste.
The ability to maintain precise temperatures in refrigerated or frozen cases is imperative for maximizing freshness while minimizing food waste (shrink). A BMS controller should allow store operators to view their refrigeration assets from one place and continually monitor performance, temperatures and defrost schedules. By triggering alarms at the first detection of “out-of-tolerance” conditions, a BMS can enable operators and technicians to take the necessary actions to preserve food quality and prevent waste. Combined with enterprise management software, case-level data can be leveraged to generate a variety of food-related reports to validate temperature precision and support hazard and critical control points (HACCP) compliance standards.
5. Streamline energy management and optimization.
To meet sustainability objectives and address rising electricity costs, retailers will need new energy management and optimization tools. Traditional grocery store building envelopes will continue to evolve toward smaller store formats, and the introduction of e-fulfillment business models will also impact store energy profiles. For many operators, lowering energy consumption and/or qualifying for rebates and incentives will require energy retrofits, demand management and load-shedding arrangements with participating utilities. Because participation in these programs requires coordination and clear communications between facilities and utilities, operators will need connected infrastructures and BMS controllers to take advantage of these opportunities and fine-tune energy consumption within their building envelopes.
At Emerson, we are designing powerful BMS solutions that are built to scale with the lifecycles of modern food retail operations. The Lumity™ E3 supervisory control and its robust software provide the tools retailers need to optimize their critical systems today and adapt to meet their changing business models in the future.