EDITOR’S NOTE: From September 2010 to April 2012, the retailer Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Inc. took the step of implementing display door retrofits on almost 30,000 linear feet of open medium-temperature display cases in 174 of its California, Arizona, and Nevada stores. This study, sponsored by and used with the permission of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), discusses the motivation, implementation, and results of Fresh & Easy’s case retrofit program.
Ever since opening its first stores in the Western U.S. in 2007, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Inc. has placed a focus on being a leader in energy efficiency and sustainability within the food retail industry. The need to balance this desire with the realities of the tight-margin grocery business drove the company to seek energy-saving solutions which were also cost-effective.
Angus McGill, property services director, said that open case retrofits were a natural fit with the company’s emphasis on building green stores. From a financial perspective, the anticipated payback period of around four years made these retrofits an economically sound and energy-efficient solution.
A Company-wide Plan
Motivated by the desire to cut its stores’ utility costs, run an environmentally friendly business, and provide the highest quality product to its customers, Fresh & Easy worked with REMIS America (a manufacturer and installer of retrofit kits) and Enreps (a commissioning and energy management consultant) to design and implement a plan to install doors on open medium-temperature cases across its stores.
Fresh & Easy first piloted the technology in a few stores starting in September 2010. After experimenting with different door designs, soliciting customer feedback, and collecting data on the performance of the refrigeration systems after retrofits were conducted, Fresh & Easy decided, based on these positive early results, to roll the technology out company wide.
By installing similar equipment across the range of their stores, Fresh & Easy was able to learn from its first experiences and apply that knowledge to the jobs later in the process. For example, a plan was initially followed in which doors were installed on all the cases in a store in a single night. However, Fresh & Easy found that the sudden, dramatic reduction in refrigeration load caused issues with the compressor racks, which were not able to adjust quickly enough. By splitting the work into two nights, adjustments could be made to the refrigeration system after the first night, ensuring a smoother transition.
During the planning of the retrofit projects, Fresh & Easy and its contractors worked with local and regional utilities to obtain rebates for its open case retrofits. Working in conjunction with utility providers spanning three states, Fresh & Easy was able to obtain electric utility rebates sufficient to offset roughly 10 percent of the up-front project cost. Fresh & Easy said that, while this measure was financially viable without rebates, the existence of incentives made deployment of the technology an almost irresistible opportunity.
Fresh & Easy’s engineering contractor monitored the stores’ natural gas and electricity consumption after the retrofits, and was able to compare that data to pre-existing meter data from before the projects to show the savings benefit of retrofits. Fresh & Easy provided data from several of its stores to the DOE for use in this case study as examples to illustrate savings potential.
Storewide electricity usage: Main & Chapman, Orange, Calif., 16.1 percent year-over-year change; and Trautwein & Bountiful, Riverside, Calif., 23.2 percent year-over-year change.
Storewide gas usage: Glassel Park, Los Angeles, 56.9 percent year-over-year change; Main & Chapman, 60.5 percent year-over-year change; and Trautwein & Bountiful, 65.4 percent year-over-year change.
Now, more than a year after the completion of its retrofit projects, Fresh & Easy has been very satisfied with the results across the chain. Results have not only met, but have in fact exceeded energy-savings goals.
In addition to reducing the energy impact of Fresh & Easy’s stores, the retrofits applied to existing open cases also resulted in additional benefits for the operators and customers. These include improved customer comfort due to warmer aisles, and a positive perception of product quality by customers. Additionally, Fresh & Easy has enjoyed more consistency in product integrity and reduced product loss due to tighter temperature control within the cases.
Publication date: 11/18/2013