EXCLUSIVE: Suppliers afraid new refrigeration scheme is falling on deaf ears

Energy labelling

Foodservice equipment buyers are ignoring the energy efficiency credentials of refrigeration products despite the advent of energy labelling making it easier to identify the best-performing kit on the market, according to leading suppliers in the sector.

Legislation introduced in July makes it compulsory for manufacturers to display an energy rating on certain types of standard refrigeration equipment, but many brands believe the message hasn’t got through to buyers.

They fear a lack of understanding around the introduction of minimum energy performance standards and labelling is holding customers back from basing their decisions on lifecycle and environmental factors.

Malcolm Harling, sales and marketing director at Williams Refrigeration, said: “There are still many customers who have very little, if any, knowledge of what Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) is and how it affects them. Although the product’s energy rating is doubtlessly a consideration in the buying decision process, our observations are that price and footprint remain the main drivers at the current time.”

Manufacturers had hoped the much-anticipated launch of energy efficiency criteria would lead to a rush of sales from customers eager to get their hands on independently verified green refrigeration.

But the consensus seems to be that weight continues to be given to other factors first.

“We have listened and garnered anecdotal evidence from visitors at trade shows, and via initial contact from potential customers to our Customer Service Team at HQ, and it very much appears that little or no reference has been made to labelling as the motivator for purchase,” said Karl Hodgson, sales director at Adande. “This scheme is just one of a range of criteria for buyers to consider, the most critical factor being that their ultimate choice sufficiently meets their operational needs.”

Electrolux Professional admits that it has seen a “mixed response” from across the catering industry to energy labelling for refrigeration equipment.

Alex Reed, regional sales manager – foodservice at Electrolux, said that chains and group operators were showing “much more interest” in the legislative impact than single-site operators due to the savings that high efficiency models promise when rolled across multiple locations.

“From an independent site’s perspective, there is still a firm focus on initial capital cost of the unit. Whilst efficiency will play some part in the purchasing decision, I would say that overall perceived value for money of the equipment is still the key differentiator when it comes to finalising a purchase.”

Mr Reid said customers were also struggling to fully understand the various duty classes, which form part of the new energy labelling scheme.

“Currently the classes comprise of heavy duty, normal duty and light duty. Yet some end-users are struggling to get to grips with the fact that a light duty Grade A+ fridge may actually be less efficient than a heavy duty Grade D appliance, depending on where it will be used. To put the issue into context, a light duty fridge isn’t too far away from a domestic model, so whilst it will have a lower value, it would not be suitable for most commercial kitchens over a certain size. I would therefore say that customers need to pay just as much attention to the duty class as they do to the A+ to G rating.”

FEJ will be delving into this topic in greater depth in the forthcoming November issue of the publication.

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