FMI Show: What's New in Food & Beverage Refrigeration

The Food Marketing Institute’s (FMI) Supermarket Convention & Educational Exposition is the largest, most comprehensive event of its kind in the world. The show stormed into Chicago’s McCormick Place May 2-4, 2004. Supermarket retailers and wholesalers from 100 countries were able to walk through five shows in one location: The FMI Show, Fancy Food Show, U.S. Food Export Showcase, United Produce Expo and Conference, and All Things Organic.

Show Highlights

Tom Rubel, Retail Forward, Inc. presented Twenty Trends for 2010: Retailing in an Age of Uncertainty. He says the retail world will be substantially different just six years from now. Consumer targets, categories, channels of distribution, and companies will all undergo radical transformation. Retail Darwinism will continue; many brands won’t survive. Leading companies will be seeking ways to control costs, especially through energy saving investments. Energy represents one of the largest costs of supermarket retailing.

Jim Sheehan, Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc. and Karen Spooner, Kraft Foods, Inc. were co-presenters on the topic Are You Prepared? The Future of Sales & Merchandising Organizations. Participants learned how retail merchandising and supplier sales organizations are preparing for new enhanced ways of doing business together. Sales and merchandising organizations must adapt to the new e-collaboration tools that are emerging. New approaches in communication and business integration, and natural by-products of e-commerce were also discussed during the session. Business processes that drive the buyer-seller relationship are rapidly changing in not only food merchandising, but in all aspects of vendor relationships, including those involved with energy and refrigeration.

Future Trends to Watch For

Entrepreneurs are popping up all over. For example, a Cleveland, OH college student has invented a new way to keep beer cold. This first-year graduate student in Case Western Reserve University’s Physics Entrepreneurship Program, received a $20,000 grant from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance to build a prototype of his Keg Wrap — a material wrap that uses electric current to keep a keg between 32F and 35F. The student, Adam Hunnell, hopes eventually to sell the product to beer wholesalers and distributors.

Ice Cream Chillers Get a Face-lift

Ben & Jerry’s, the ice cream maker from Vermont, teamed up with scientists from Pennsylvania State University to boost its environmental standing by creating a freezer that uses sound waves rather than HCFCs and HFCs, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.

The new freezer, called a thermo-acoustic chiller, pumps sound waves from a speaker, raising and lowering pressure of helium inside, allowing it to pull heat out of the ice cream . The hope at Ben & Jerry’s is to end dependency on ozone depleting and global warming chemicals for the refrigeration industry. The freezer looks like a regular ice cream freezer with a large metal cylinder next to it. The high powered waves and helium in the chilling cylinder keep the ice cream hard. This same technology has the potential to heat and cool homes, though commercialization is years away.

Steven Garrett, a Penn State professor, has worked on the technology for 30 years. “Ben & Jerry’s funding made the project commercially viable. The technology is based upon the scientific concept that sound waves can change temperature of whatever they travel through. Traditional air conditioning and refrigeration is based on the fact that an increase or decrease in pressure has a direct relationship to temperature change,” says Garrett.

Acoustic chillers have been used in space shuttles and by the U.S. Navy. It may be tough to replace reliable and relatively inexpensive chillers with the new technology. However, change is always moving us toward the future. Refrigeration is no exception.

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