BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. -- The ongoing battle to extend shelf life in the fresh-food departments goes beyond sourcing the best product and installing reliable equipment. Retailers also use ancillary devices that work in conjunction with fixtures that increase the ability to pace and control aging, or in the case of produce, ripening.
According to Fresh Management, a division of fixture manufacturer, Carlson AirFlo Merchandising Systems, both based here, a two-week field test of its new display liners has resulted in a significant reduction in shrink.
Results for the Shrink Control Liner study were gathered by Fresh Management, together with Food Product Laboratory, Portland, Ore., a product-testing services firm.
According to John Van't Slot, director of marketing for Fresh Management, the liner was placed in 64 feet of produce case located in a unit of Lamb's Thriftway, Wilsonville, Ore. He said the liner was tested on its ability to control shrink, as well as odors; prevent contamination through the absorption and oxidation of organic matter; extend shelf life by reducing ethylene gas in the immediate atmosphere; and simplify the cleaning process.
A similar study using the liner was conducted at Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester, N.Y. Already a customer of Fresh Management's parent company, Carlson AirFlo, the retailer agreed to carry out a 30-day test of the liner in its produce department.
"What's out there now is a case liner that sits there and is a barrier between the case and whatever falls down on top of it," said Van't Slot. He added that the field test was designed to test the additional absorbent qualities incorporated into the new liner.
"Our product is very different. It actually has cells woven into the fabric that swell to four or five times its size with fluids," he said.
The results of the retailer study indicated that in cases where the liner was used (vs. non-lined cases), shrink dropped from $71 to $40 per day, a decrease of 43%. A further breakout of results indicated that Lamb's Thriftway would save an average $11,315 a year, or $943 per month, using the in-case liner. After deducting the cost of the liner itself at a list price of $4.80 per foot -- equating to an annual overhead cost of $3,686 -- the net savings would average $7,629, or $636 per month.
As a result of the test, Lamb's Thriftway has been considering the liner in all its produce cases, said Van't Slot.
According to Bill Pool, manager of agricultural production and research for Wegmans, the liner testing resulted in a more than 50% reduction in cleaning labor and an 18% reduction in shrink.
Wegmans is now performing a follow-up test to confirm the results before deciding whether to do a chainwide rollout of the liner, said Van't Slot.
Van't Slot also said that other retailers are in the process of testing the new liners in their produce departments, including two national chains and three regional chains. He said that so far, these retailers have been impressed with the results from other studies, but each wants to perform individual studies for further confirmation.
He said retailers are not able to compare the new liners with case liners currently on the market, because the latter "lack absorbent materials," and are used more for aesthetic reasons.