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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Energy efficiency was the theme at scores of booths at this year's NAFEM (North American Associate of Food Equipment Manufacturers) Show here this weekend. Amid a larger show floor than last year and more attendees, exhibitors interviewed by CSNews Online reported a definite uptick in retailers' willingness to invest in new equipment to grow their business and reduce overall energy use and cost.
Among the major themes at the show were systems that enable remote monitoring of energy use, equipment that reuses ambient heat and saves energy, and many new food containers and displays for showing off food while keeping it at appropriately safe temperatures.
For example, several exhibitors showed ware-washing equipment that reduced water requirements, capture steam before it escapes from the machine and eliminates exhaust hoods, and recycled the heat from wash water to ensure sanitizing rinse-cycle temperatures.
Exhibitors told CSNews Online that after two years of reduced spending on equipment due to the depressed economy, operators were finally in the mood to invest again, particularly in systems that reduce costs.
Meanwhile, food display case makers showed numerous styles of energy saving reach-ins refrigerators and display warmers, many designed for the c-store channel of trade.
A sampling of some of the products and innovations on display that have application for the convenience industry:
- Chewable ice: Scotsman launched its "Luv the Nug" campaign at the show. The campaign features a new Website, LuvtheNug.com, as well as a Facebook page and a Twitter following, all designed to bring consumers together to share and spread their love of nugget or chewable ice. A feature on the site allows consumers to submit their own or view other users' "nug moments" and be entered into a contest for a chance to win a Scotsman nugget ice machine. Nug Trucks are also being dispatched to various locations around the country to introduce more consumers to nugget ice. According to Jeff Biel, product manager for Scotsman, nugget machines use less energy and less water than standard cube ice machines, while giving consumers something truly unique and fun. For more information, go to www.luvthenug.com, or go to the Luv the Nug Facebook page or follow @LuvtheNug on Twitter.
- 100th Anniversaries: Two companies were celebrating their first century in business at the show. W.A. Brown, a maker of walk-ion coolers and freezers, marked the beginning of its second 100 years in business by designing a booth to look like a fishing shack because the company started as a fish market in the small town of Salisbury, N.C. Among other things, the company, which said it does a lot of business with convenience stores, was promoting its ability to customize a walk-in unit for any use or situation.
Meanwhile, Tomlinson, which started as a fittings and faucet company, was showcasing its widely expanded product line. Asked to point out new items that would appeal to the c-store trade, the company's director of marketing, Jeanne Engle, pointed to a new 12-in pizza oven with a complementary temperature controlled merchandiser that fits above the oven. Each shelf holds up to a 16-in. pizza, and could hold other snack items that need to be kept warm as well.
- Refcon, the Norwood, N.J., based company, was proudly showing off what it calls the first integrated system for controlling energy costs at the store. The system provides the retailer a way to earn LEEDs credits as well as qualify for state and federal energy credits and rebates. The system, which is compact and versatile enough to be located inside the store, on the roof or outside, can also be monitored and controlled remotely at a chain headquarters, said President Herman Jakubowski.
- Champion, based in Winston-Salem, N.C., showed why it's a leader in the ware-washing category, with several different models of washers that incorporate advanced heat recovery systems to reduce costs.
- Moffert, also based in Winston-Salem, unveiled a new line of sharp-looking, chic convection ovens that would look right at home at the most upscale kitchen, yet can cover most any footprint or budget. The stainless steel fronts of the ovens also feature safe-touch doors and can be modified to hold screen-printed marketing messages, according to PJ Loy, vice president of sales.
- At Masterbilt, the company was showing off several refrigeration solutions that would fit well in a convenience store environment. For example, a low profile, curved glass ice cream dipping cabinet, originally designed for Baskin-Robbins, would work well in a c-store. The company's products come in a new textured finish as well, in either black or white, and feature curved corners. Masterbilt also introduced its new Fusion series of sandwich/salad prep tables and cabinets, as well as its customizable Endura line. The company also introduced at the show its new reverse cycle defrost system -- a patented technology that results in 60 to 80 percent reduction in refrigeration costs for walk-in freezers.
- Hobart debuted at the show its new Traulsen prep tables. The tables are all NSF 7 rated and keeps condiments and food cool for up to 15 hours, instead of the standard four hours of most other prep tables. With an adjust caster channel to avoid floor obstructions like drains, the tables are easily placed anywhere in a store.
- Vollrath was showing a new of new NSF rated and dishwasher safe display bowls in 11 new modern colors. The double insulated bowls lend an upscale look to any food presentation.
- SPG (Storage Products Group) has over 28,000 SKUs of products for both the front and back end storage needs of any operator. Its new cantilevered shelving station, for example, provides increased storage capacity of 50 to 60 percent, as well as easier and quicker access to product. A former company of Leggett & Platt, SPG was spun off last year and is promoting a new theme and logo: Expect More. For example, an idea from an operator focus group resulting in the creation of a new adjustable ergonomic prep table that was being shown new at NAFEM.
- The two primary products being featured by Henny Penny at the show were a Space Saver Plus Smart Combi oven and the Evolution Elite deep fryer. The Space Saver Plus oven is targeted to smaller operations where space is at a premium, yet it has the full capabilities of a larger oven to steam, grill and bake products. It can also be pre-programmed for myriad of menu items. The Evolution Elite is a single-well deep fryer that not only has a small footprint, but also uses 40 percent less cooking oil in the vat than traditional fryers. Henny Penny's Jason Moles demonstrated how the product's built-in filtration system makes cleaning a snap in less than 4 minutes.
- Carlisle Foodservice Products, Oklahoma City, Okla., was showing off a wide variety of different display and storage products. According to vice president of marketing Jacqui Gustafson, the new Eco-Made line of displayware costs no more than standard products but come in much more visually interesting shapes and colors, are environmentally sustainable (composed 50 percent of renewable ingredients and NSF rated as sustainable), and biodegradable additive starts to decay in a compostable environment in 90 days. Other cool looking food display products at the booth included new bistro style trays with customizable art that is embedded into the tray top so it doesn't peel off like other silk-screened products. Another useful product line for convenience stores, according to Gustafson, is Carlisle's line of color coded sanitary tools. The Total Maintenance Program provides color coded mops, buckets, brooms, etc. -- created to prevent cross contamination between rest rooms, outdoors, kitchen and dining area.
- Hatco's new Heated Zone Merchandiser could be the ideal answer to keeping food warm while saving on energy costs during slower periods. Using a new technology called Spot-On, the merchandiser senses when a product is on the shelf and only heats up the zone where the product is located. The rest of the merchandiser stays off, saving wasted heating costs. The merchandiser comes in seven designer colors, as well as a standard bold black option. Robin Alfano, advertising manager for Hatco, also noted a new online sign customization program being rolled out by the company. Retailers can go online and chose from five different graphic pages to create all different sized and shaped signs for their Hatco merchandisers. This spring, the company plans to also offer the ability for the retailer to upload his or her own graphics for use on the signs.