The New Year Through a Cold, Cloudy Crystal Ball

January 5, 2001
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Now that 2001 is officially here, it is time to offer a few predictions about refrigeration trends for the upcoming 12 months.

Problem is, your guess may be as good as mine. My crystal ball is a bit hazy. This may have as much to do with the fact that there may not be that much news as with my aging brain’s inability to have a grand vision. But for sake of provoking argument, let’s tick off a few refrigeration predictions.

REFRIGERANTS

There has been no movement for several years now away from R-404A and R-507 as top choices in low temperature alternatives to R-502. Both choices are HFCs and undercurrents overseas still talk about trying to do away with those refrigerants and going with a more “natural” choice. But most statesiders do not see that maneuvering making much of an impact in the United States in 2001.

SECONDARY LOOP

Secondary loop technology in supermarket refrigeration systems emerged as a big deal about five years ago at the Food Marketing Institute Expo in Chicago, but every year since, attention to the technology has diminished. I suspect that decline in interest will continue.

SUPERMARKETS

Really, really big supermarkets seem to be making a comeback. A dozen years ago, supermarkets begot hypermarkets, which begot megamarkets, etc. Then the trend reversed back toward less massive structures. Now the trend may be reversing itself again, moving back toward the megastores, which now are being called “big-box stores” by critics. And more and more of those stores are popping up as metropolitan areas expand with large housing developments. Contractors and technicians don’t have to get involved in the politics of how big is too big; they can take solace in more refrigeration systems per store and more stores per mile. That is a lot of service work.



DISPLAY CASES

Recent laws require medium temperature display cases to hold 41°F maximum temperature, about two degrees lower than the previous maximum. It appears that target is being reached and lawmakers will keep their legislative hands off any further downward pushes. After all, a few more degrees here and there over a few more years, and medium temp cases become low temp cases.

ICE MACHINES

One guarantee in this segment of refrigeration: Manufacturers will continue to show equipment said to improve efficiencies and increase ice production. One guess: The major players will continue to shuffle thanks to acquisitions.

THE ‘SPACE ODYSSEY’ COP-OUT

Just in case I am wrong in any or all of the above, I offer the following cop-out. This year marks the year depicted in the 1960s film “2001: A Space Odyssey” (or, as Mad magazine once called it, “2001 Minutes of Space Idiocy”). In the middle portion of the film, the year 2001 found most everybody traveling in space aboard vehicles with more room and comforts than any actual vehicle we have today.

Fact is, nothing in that film has yet to come true, even though is was supposed to have been written by one of the great science visionaries.

My mind operates more like the end of the movie, which involves racing though some flashing light amusement ride. It all means something, but one isn’t exactly sure what.

The refrigeration sector with changing technologies, government regulations, and shifting players, often seems a lot like that. For the next 12 months, my task will be to figure out what is happening in refrigeration — and what it means to you.

Powell is refrigeration editor for The News. He can be reached at 847-622-7260; 847-622-7266 (fax); or PowellBNP@aol.com (e-mail).

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