Study to Examine Impact of Sustainable Practices on Supermarket Sales

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Study to Examine Impact of Sustainable Practices on Supermarket Sales

To find out whether implementing green business practices will hurt food sales at the supermarket, two University of Missouri professors, Brian Fricke and Bryan Becker will conducting a new research study co-funded by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

The study, which will be carried out under the direction of ASHRAE's Technical Committee TC 10.7, Commercial Food and Beverage Cooling Display and Storage, will look at the energy use of two different types of supermarket display cases: glass door vertical display cases and open vertical display cases. The aim of the research is to promote sustainable, energy-efficient practices in grocery stores, which normally spend as much as 50 percent of total energy costs on refrigeration.

"Walmart has taken real sustainable initiative with having doors on refrigerators, solar panels on the roof and other forward-thinking programs," noted Fricke. "Because of that, other chains are interested in following along in that direction."

Two grocery stores belonging to the same national chain, Dyer's IGA in Wamego, Kan. and Moon's Hometown Market in Osawatomie, Kan., will take part in the study. According to the researchers, many supermarkets are reluctant to use glass door cases, because of the common perception that doors reduce shopper impulse buying. As a result, these cases have only had limited success in penetrating a market dominated by open vertical cases.

"It's important that store owners realize that being sustainable doesn't necessarily have to hurt profitability," said Becker. "Thus, the goal of our study will be to prove whether or not door cases in fact have a negative impact on product sales vs. open cases."

Both stores will install new refrigerated cases[m]one of each kind[m]for the study, which will run for about two months. The energy use of each display case will be monitored with HOBO Energy Logger Pro systems from Onset, a Bourne, Mass.-based supplier of energy-monitoring equipment.

"We'll be using the Onset monitoring gear to measure air temperatures, discharge temperatures [and] air return temperatures, as well as electrical consumption of the lights, fans and anti-sweat heaters on the cases," explained Fricke. "Measurements will be taken every minute or so, and we'll offload the data from both systems on a weekly basis to analyze the energy consumption of both cases."

Product sales for each display case, in addition to total store product sales, will also be tracked with the aid of SKUs during the course of the study. For each day, a variety of data will be obtained from the electronic POS system at each store, including the Universal Product Code (UPC) of the product, a description of the product and the quantity and prices of products sold.

The results should enable supermarket designers to make informed decisions as to which type of display cases to use. Electric utilities, in turn, may be able employ this information when developing incentive programs to accelerate adoption of more sustainable supermarket designs.