Econofrost Reflective Night Covers are right for Supermarkets in China

Econofrost arrives in China at a time of great change in the food marketing industry. In the summer of 2006, news in China is filled with stories about the country astonishing economic development. Much of China turnaround from a huge developing country into a modern progressive nation lies in its transformed food marketing industry now visible in every city across the country.

The introduction and application of centralized large scale food marketing is happening at a time when retailers need more than ever to control their rising energy costs. Introduced to China at the FHC Beijing 2006 in June, energy-saving Econofrost woven aluminum night covers are now available to supermarkets in China. Econofrost joined around 200 Chinese and foreign owned enterprises associated with retail display and marketing to demonstrate the benefits for supermarkets in using Econofrost night covers to help preserve refrigerated foods and reduce energy waste.

Der Energiefaktor

The operation of large scale stores in China adds to mounting demands on the country energy resources and is helping to drive energy prices upwards. News stories in China frequently inform citizens in this fast changing country about the importance of exercising every opportunity to save energy and avoid wasting resources.

An article in the July 16, 2005 People Daily Online entitled Energy saving brings new operational modes to China’s enterprises, cited experts’ advice that the contradictions between fast economic growth and the increase of population and insufficient fresh water, land, energy and mineral resources have been more and more conspicuous and quoted Futong Group Board Chairman Wang Jianyi saying that everywhere China is taking up significant energy-saving actions.

The Supermarket Phenomenon

The proliferation of supermarkets in China is in the news for good reason. Huge new stores are changing the way business is done in China, transforming traditional on-the-street food retailing into large-scale centralized food delivery systems, from the city centers outward. Fixed prices and plastic wrap are among the western marketing features now becoming established in China.

The supermarket as we know it was a brand new phenomenon in China only fifteen years ago. Since the early 1990s, the introduction of huge supermarkets and even larger hypermarkets to cities in all provinces accounts for a significant part of China economic miracle and the phenomenon is rapidly changing China entire system of food distribution on an unprecedented scale” making changes in everyday lives that were unimaginable for most people only a decade ago.

The world has not failed to recognize that modernization of China’s economy today means more goods of all kinds are quickly becoming available to vast numbers of potential consumers. China’s explosive economic growth is obvious in the food delivery sector, where shoppers are flocking into new brightly-lit multilevel supermarkets with banks of electronic checkout registers and magnetized escalators that hold shopping carts in place between floors.

In the traditional pattern of food distribution, seasonally available foods are brought into the cities daily from surrounding farmlands and consumers purchase fresh produce for daily needs in small local stores or on the street. However, in city center neighborhoods where multitudes of small vendors and open markets delivered local fresh vegetables and meats only a few years ago, today stand multi-level supermarkets providing, under one roof, a wide selection of food choices from both local and distant producers. China’s government is continually reaching out to sign new international trade agreements that will bring into Chinese stores an ever-expanding array of goods and provide new markets for Chinese exports.

Food distribution systems have never before gone through such rapid and dramatic development affecting so many people as is happening in China today. Shanghai currently has 124 hypermarkets and is adding more. Of the major foreign-owned chain companies rapidly establishing themselves in China, the French owned Carrefour chain did 2 billion euros of business last year in China and in May announced plans to open 20 new hypermarkets in 2006, compared with 14 new stores last year, and intends to continue their momentum at least until 2008. In June, Walmart, already well established across the country with stores that receive half their revenue from food items, followed up by announcing plans to match that number of new stores this year, aiming at smaller cities such as Yuxi, Yunnan Province, in China’s southwest region. Furthermore, the Chinese government is reported to be subsidizing 250,000 new supermarket openings in rural areas from 2005 to 2008.

Domestic Chinese supermarkets are quickly learning how to apply western marketing methods to the Chinese environment and large Chinese chains are expected to grow into serious competition for the European, Taiwanese and American chains. China Central TV English language business news, Biz China, announced that Chinas food catering industry is also expanding on a large scale, having done nearly $1.10 billion US in business last year and looking to do more.

Modern Chinese supermarkets are well-lit and clean, with large scale food displays showing off many traditional Chinese food choices like dumplings and steamed buns, exotic mushrooms and pickles, and regional specialities like chunks of smoked ham and pickled cabbage, along with western products previously available in China only in districts where westerners were willing to pay very high prices to get familiar foods from home.

Increasingly, supermarket foods are packaged and kept in temperature-controlled cabinets, and well-lit attractive marketing displays help consumers make selections to fill their grocery carts. Long shelves of milk, yoghurt, ice cream and cheese require advanced storage facilities and show expiration dates. New display cabinets designed for easy accessibility also require effective temperature controls and energy saving mechanisms.

Modern and Traditional Food Marketing in China

A visitor who travels around a Chinese city quickly becomes aware of contrasting worlds operating together. Modern city buildings rise out of the rushing traffic, while small businesses continue to operate as they always have in smaller streets that are crowded with foot traffic day and night.

Rows of new high-rises are interspersed with streets lined with small store fronts where small vendors on foot still deliver locally produced goods like eggs or a small array of freshly cut green vegetables, sidewalk cooks with movable carts attached to bicycles serve up hot bites of tofu or marinated meat on a skewer, and in Chinas south west, travelling vendors offer a continual array of seasonal fruits and huge bunches of flowers.

Traditional food delivery from the countryside to city consumers is still evident everywhere, often with unpackaged foods passing through many hands on the way to the street corner and local restaurants. Foods are transported and displayed on bicycle carts, open to the sun and the dust. Fresh vegetables are kept bright with sprinkles of water from a bucket and hot foods are prepared in woks sitting atop small portable cookers right at street level.

Vegetables are often sorted on the sidewalk in front of small restaurants, live chickens sit in cages waiting for their trip to the kitchen, and live fish sit in the sun in small basins of water, ready for purchase and immediate cooking. Snacks and local foods cooked on the street at mealtimes smell exotic and enticing, and are definitely interesting for westerners to observe, but visitors can rarely count on traditional methods of food preparation to meet their expectations of hygienic and safe foods.

Modernization is, however, bringing increased awareness to the Chinese people of food safety issues. Demand for more hygienic methods has caused China to expand food inspection programs and to enact consumer protection legislation and new food recall laws in 2006, placing new responsibilities on food retailers to deliver safe foods to consumers.

The new supermarkets are providing better opportunities for food retailers to meet the higher food safety standards and consistently deliver cleaner and safer foods using efficient and modern food handling methods.

An Econofrost representative says, Food retailers and supermarkets play a vital role in preventing foodborne illnesses and assuring that customers are taking home the safest and highest quality foods. Not only is it good retail practice to maintain high quality chilled food displays at optimal temperatures, but failing to keep foods chilled below critical levels will soon show up in diminished quality and lost sales.

Econofrost explains that food temperatures fluctuate in open display cabinets

Constantly changing storage temperatures are perhaps the biggest threat to food quality and products near the front of display cabinets suffer the most degradation from temperature fluctuation. Studies have shown that up to 95% of all heat transfer is a result of radiation from the mass of warm air in the store into the open refrigerated display cases. Products near the exposed front of the display case can be warmer by 7 degrees to 8 degrees C than products placed farther in the back of the case. One independent study reported that maintaining stable temperatures throughout the case during closed hours significantly reduced premature spoilage and thus extended product shelf life.

Econofrost reflective night covers effectively create a thermal barrier in refrigerated display cases and stabilize lower temperatures in the cases overnight by reflecting warm air away from the chilled foods on display. Giving the refrigeration units a rest at night saves energy and protects the chilled foods from temperature fluctuations.

Of all the materials used for refrigeration night covers, Econofrost uses a specially designed aluminum fabric because it is the most effective material for reflecting heat. Econofrost states. The choice of aluminum as a shield material as opposed to other materials readily available is due to its low emissivity. Aluminum has been found to be 20 times more effective than plastic, linoleum, and plastic film at reflecting radiated heat from open refrigerated display cases.

Addressing another challenge for food retailers, food coolers in warm environments often produce high levels of condensation. Perforations in the woven aluminum fabric of Econofrost night covers allow condensation to evaporate and prevent mildew from forming, further prolonging shelf life and maintaining food high quality

Econofrost has been serving the supermarket industry in over 25 countries since 1975 and has made over 250,000 installations. Market Group Ventures, Inc., the parent corporation for Econofrost, is a world leader providing retail technology solutions for merchandisers. Market Group also manufactures Promolux Safe Spectrum lighting, balanced spectrum low radiation lamps designed specifically for meats, dairy and all fresh food displays.