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FMI Energy 2012: Geeky but Essential

Today the Food Marketing Institute’s Energy & Store Development Conference starts in Phoenix, giving me a chance to cover one of my favorite topics as Technology & Operations Editor for SN: commercial refrigeration.

Why, you may ask, do I like this topic? For one thing, it appeals to the chemistry geek in me. Store refrigeration, taken for granted by the public, presents a huge technical challenge that differentiates food retailers from other types of retail operations. Finally commercial refrigeration contributes to the defining environmental problems of our time by leaking refrigerant gases that deplete the ozone layer or increase global warming – or both.

But food retailers, especially those participating in the Environmental Protection Agency’s GreenChill partnership, are doing something and these technical and environmental issues. This morning at the conference, Keilly Witman, GreenChill’s terrific manager, will announce the annual awards given to GreenChill members that have done the best job across a number of areas, such as having the lowest leak rate or opening the most GreenChill-certified stores.

The conference will also feature a number of sessions addressing ways retailers can improve their refrigeration systems, including such geeky but essential topics as refrigerant retrofits, temperature and defrost control and new refrigerant options,

This year, SN is trying to shed some light on the state of refrigeration in the food retailing business by conducting its first annual refrigeration survey. I urge any food retailer executive who oversees refrigeration to complete this survey (available at; respondents can also enter a sweepstakes for the soon-to-be-released Kindle Paperwhite e-reader. This survey will help retailers benchmark themselves against industry refrigeration trends and give everyone a sense of where the industry stands.

Finally, I would like to congratulate the winners of SN’s Sustainability Excellence Awards: Sobeys (chain category), Unified Grocers (wholesaler category) and Kudrinko’s (independent category). I will be presenting the awards to Sobeys and Kudrinko’s today at the conference and at a later date to Unified Grocers at its headquarters in Los Angeles. All three companies, by the way, do an outstanding job with refrigeration, as you can see by reading their profiles in this week’s SN or at The awards were sponsored this year by Fleet Advantage.

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