Tom Matthews: “Put doors on your cases.”

MINNEAPOLIS - Consider the future of refrigeration cases that hold perishable products. Will they all become closed cases either voluntarily by the industry or under government regulations? Or could they virtually all disappear as fewer and fewer food goods have to be refrigerated?

That was one of the overriding topics at the most recent Food Marketing Institute Energy & Store Development Conference.

The issue of open cases was touched upon in several of the sessions because of concerns about energy efficiency for environmental reasons and cost considerations.

Ric Jurgens, chairman and CEO, Hy-Vee Inc., and FMI chairman of the board, made first reference to the topic in a keynote address. “Look reality in the eye,” he said. “Will produce need refrigeration in the future? Is the government going to mandate a different kind of case or doors on every case? What if customer touch is the only way to light the case? Or will energy concerns demand doors?”

In noting the possibility of fewer cases, he said food service is moving more to products not needing refrigeration, such as canned goods, innovative packaging, and items like microwavable bacon.

He said he did not have any predictions, but did say, “The government is afoot to raise energy prices. Such laws are out of our control, but response to a law is our job.”

Another speaker, Rich Varda, senior vice president of store design for Target, said, “Stores won’t go to closed cases until all agree to do so voluntarily or by government regulation.”

Tom Matthews, president of Baseline, which provides engineering, design, project management, and commissioning services, was a bit more blunt. “For God’s sake, put doors on your dairy cases. They are coming sooner than later anyway. The sales argument that cases need to be open to draw customers are starting to crumble.”

Publication date: 11/08/2010