The Other Winner When Grocery Stores Invest in Energy Efficiency: Shoppers

Many grocery chains have a history of making investments in sustainability.  The industry’s Food Marketing Institute provides members guidance on a range of programs from agriculture to energy to recycling.  Some join partnerships like the EPA’s Green Chill for managing refrigeration chemicals.  Last week the USDA and the FDA gained industry support for their US Food Waste Challenge, which set the country’s first food waste reduction goals.

And at the store level, grocers want to integrate their efforts into their shopper’s experience.  They market their food sourcing strategies, provide guidance on how consumers can participate and offer reusable shopping bags.

Recently, while walking an aisle with a grocery store manager, our engineer detected a humming sound coming from the case cooler refrigeration system.  The manager acknowledged he hadn’t noticed it before and asked if we could repair it while performing our refrigeration recommissioning.

The fix wasn’t about energy savings.  It was about eliminating an irritating noise that might bother shoppers.

Later our team determined the sound was coming from older, end-of-life fan motors and replaced them proactively with newer, more efficient versions – a fast energy savings payback, supported by an additional utility incentive.

Problem fixed.  Energy saved.

After a recent full store LED lighting upgrade project we witnessed an even more profound reaction.

We had redesigned a neighborhood grocery store’s entire lighting layout, replacing every fixture with its LED equivalent.  Our team added extra light output to brighten open areas, aisles, end caps and cases.  Have you ever bent down to try to read a label deep inside a grocery shelf?  LEDs are directional, so our designers were able to punch light where they wanted it, reaching food product that previously was difficult to illuminate.  We even replaced fading, discolored dropped ceiling tiles that stood out more post the upgraded lighting design.

Now the store’s aisles popped, the meat and produce stood out and even the surface of the floor showed off a cool reflection.

As the family’s store manager walked the store with our team his expression said it all.  He had been managing that store for decades and, in this case, he literally saw the benefit from our efforts.

Both projects fit our customer’s eco-minded approaches, and produced simple investment paybacks of less than two years.  But their business is about providing the best and most pleasant grocery experience for their customers – and it was instructive for our engineering team to witness their principal motivation.

And while happier shoppers means increased sales, our engineers did not include added revenues in their energy efficiency investment model…