Sustainable Showcases

Green technology is among manufacturers' primary considerations in displaying the ocean's bounty.

It's axiomatic that seafood is healthy food, and today's seafood cases are increasingly healthy for the environment.

"When it comes to refrigerated display case innovations and developments, including seafood merchandisers, it is important that manufacturers focus on creating more energy-efficient equipment that enhances merchandising for store operators," says Mechell Clark, North American marketing communications manager at Heatcraft Worldwide Corp., based in Columbus, Ga., whose Kysor/Warren brand has long been a leader in display cases.

Clark explains that Kysor/Warren continually seeks to develop displays that positively impact supermarkets most when it comes to refrigeration, including creating energy cost savings, like the company's Stratus line of merchandisers launched in 2009. "This line of cases contains a modular design with a special emphasis on creating more energy savings for customers, including a standard EC motor," she notes.

The EC, or electronically commutated, motors come from New Bedford, Mass.-based EC Fans & Drives and are designed specifically for the HVAC and refrigeration sectors, with high levels of energy efficiency.

The Stratus line of reach-in door cases offers medium-and low-temp display options and increased energy savings of up to 60 percent compared with open cases. The sustainable modular design provides easy maintenance and service as well.

"Refrigeration costs make up a significant amount of the monthly costs for any grocer," Clark explains, "and shoppers continually seek to do business with companies that have a commitment to going green. As refrigeration equipment manufacturers, we have a responsibility to help supermarkets reach their green goals."

To that end, Heatcraft and Kysor/Warren consider it highly important for manufacturers to obtain the "voice of customer," Clark says, "seeking important feedback directly from grocery retailers on what type of display cases will work best for their stores."

Heatcraft is accomplishing this through the recent development of its Global Innovation Center, which Clark notes contains not only a product showroom, but also a global lab that undertakes rigorous testing to ensure the highest standard of product development, as well as a training and development center where customers are invited to participate in an extensive curriculum of courses on refrigeration.

Coolant Innovation

Meanwhile, Hillphoenix, based in Conyers, Ga., "strives to provide sustainable products, reduce refrigerant requirements and increase performance requirements in all of our products storewide," says Design and Marketing Specialist Marjorie Proctor.

Proctor notes that alternative refrigerants are playing a more important role in recent seafood display case innovations, and that Hillphoenix has pioneered a secondary coolant technology called Second Nature that offers significant sustainability benefits when compared with conventional refrigeration technologies.

"Most recently," Proctor continues, "Hillphoenix launched a Second Nature system that utilizes CO2 as a secondary coolant for the medium-temperature system, and CO2 as a direct-expansion cascade refrigerant for low-temperature systems."

These CO2 subcritical systems, she says, deliver superior refrigeration performance with enhanced sustainability, reduced refrigerant charge requirements and greatly reduced refrigerant gas leaks.

Hillphoenix offers six standard models specifically designed for fresh and frozen seafood applications, with a variety of glass options, base heights, case depths and accessories for each model. Proctor says the company's most popular seafood case models are the BSD-SW open-service refrigerated seafood display case and the "S"series Coolgenix technology line.

Retailers are seeking out creative, flexible and innovative display cases that give them the ability to present products in a way that leads to sales, Proctor explains. "With our BSDSW model, the popularity comes from the open-top design, which provides full visibility of product," she says. "It allows for easy interaction between server and customer; is designed on a tall base, which brings product up to a customer's vantage point; and is offered in several depths, lengths and miters."

According to Proctor, the "S" series Coolgenix line has "significant benefits for seafood departments." Coolgenix is a technology designed to increase product shelf life through conduction refrigeration by circulating a cold food-grade coolant through the deck pans of a case, eliminating the fans that typically remove moisture from product. "Using this technology," Proctor explains, "retailers don't have to remove the product at night, no ice is needed for the display, and very minimal labor is required in trimming the product in the morning, which is a tremendous labor and shrink savings."

The next generation of seafood cases will have a narrower footprint front to back to decrease shrink and give the service seafood display case a plentiful look, Proctor says. "Creating theater on the sales floor in the seafood department with whole-fish displays is an upcoming trend," she says. "During peak hours, seafood departments can merchandise a service display case with whole fish that is accessible from the front glass of the case and cut to order on the sales floor. This brings excitement and gives a sense of freshness as customers watch their product being pulled from a bed of ice in a refrigerated service display case, filleted, wrapped and weighed right on the sales floor."

Crystal Clear

At Zero Zone Inc. in North Prairie, Wis., Marketing and Advertising Manager Carl J. Peterson says the company has been a leader in energy-efficient glass-door technology since its founding in 1961. "For over 50 years," he says, "energy efficiency has been one of our main design objectives. Our dedication to that goal is uniquely embodied in the Crystal Merchandiser, which is capable of reducing energy consumption by as much as 84 percent, compared to open cases."

Peterson says the Crystal Merchandiser reminds shoppers of their home refrigerators in the sense that consumers have confidence that the products behind the glass are fresh, less touched by other shoppers — and their kids — and are evenly cooled. "Shoppers also appreciate that the cold stays in the case," he asserts, "allowing the shopping aisles to be warm and comfortable. A comfortable, confident shopper lingers longer and is more likely to add more items to their cart."

The Zero Zone Crystal Merchandiser dramatically frames seafood in the 74-inch-tall CoolView doors, Peterson says, and, unlike the majority of medium-temp cases, the refrigeration coil in the Crystal is positioned at the top of the case, which allows the retailer to easily and thoroughly clean the case bottom, where the majority of debris and odor-causing material fall. "This is not only a real timesaver for retailers," he emphasizes, "but also eliminates the problem of debris clogging the coil, a common occurrence in bottom-mount coils."

Zero Zone also offers low-temperature models like the standard-height RVZC30 and the tall RVZC30T2, which Peterson says are quite popular for the display of frozen seafood. On the medium-temp side, these same units are available, as well as the Crystal Merchandiser, for wrapped-fresh seafood displays.

All Hands on Deck

Cheryl Beach, marketing communications manager at Bridgeton, Mo.-based Hussmann Corp., observes, "We are seeing the size of the seafood department increase, with retailers adding more self-service capabilities with low-temp reach-ins and islands, as well as more refrigerated multideck display cases for fresh packaged seafood."

Hussmann's portfolio of EcoShine II LED lights, EcoVision doors for medium-temp multidecks, and lids for frozen island cases provides visual merchandising appeal that attracts shoppers while controlling energy costs within the self-service seafood section, Beach explains.

The company offers seven seafood case models with a variety of features and options. "We have a deep inlet case, single-deck, multideck, service, self-service, narrow footprint, and combination and modular design, with straight-glass or curved-glass options," adds Timothy Scherer of Hussmann Specialty Products.

Scherer says the DSF family is Hussmann's most popular model, giving customers an "open-air" fish market feel, with the small footprint and open top allowing retailers to add their own merchandising flair.

Indeed, merchandising is one key to seafood sales, and today's display cases are designed to increase sales while decreasing environmental impact — call it fishing for energy.

"It is important that manufacturers focus on creating more energy efficient equipment that enhances merchandising for store operators."

—Mechell Clark, Heatcraft Worldwide Corp.

"We are seeing the size of the seafood department increase, with retailers adding more self-service capabilities with low-temp reach-ins and islands, as well as more refrigerated multideck display cases for fresh packaged seafood"

—Cheryl Beach, Hussmann Corp.