With COVID-19’s impact on consumer habits and expectations, grocery retailers have had to make significant changes over the past three years, forcing facilities management leaders to adapt and innovate as needed. It turns out this was valuable experience — as we emerge into the post-pandemic era, it’s clear there are only more changes on the horizon for grocers in 2023 and beyond, especially given current economic trends and the rise of sustainability legislation.
Keep reading to learn about some of the most significant grocery trends facilities management leaders should expect to see in the coming year.
2023 Grocery Industry Trends Facilities Management Leaders Need to Know
1. Adapting Spaces to New Shopping Habits
As retailers compete to meet the needs of increasingly convenience-conscious consumers, we’ll continue to see grocery store facilities getting makeovers in 2023. Inside Intelligence expects “click and collect,” also known as BOPIS (“buy online pickup in store”) to continue to drive a significant portion of the retail market, accounting for over 40 percent of US grocery ecommerce sales by 2026. Additionally, grocers are seeing higher demand for hot grab-and-go meals as well as healthier to-go options for the increasingly wellness-minded consumer. As a result, grocery facilities management leaders should expect to oversee more post-pandemic building retrofits, and there will be more importance than ever placed on the management of refrigeration and other food and beverage equipment designed to keep ready-to-go meals safe for shoppers.
2. Sustainable Refrigeration Practices
One of the lowest hanging fruits in terms of reducing carbon emissions for grocery retailers, implementing sustainable refrigeration management practices will be top of mind in 2023. The average supermarket uses thousands of pounds of HFC refrigerant and has a leak rate of about 25 percent of the refrigerant charge every year, according to the North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council (NASRC).
Facilities managers can help reduce emissions of HFCs in the following ways:
- Implement an effective refrigeration and gas containment program: Take a proactive approach by making leak detection part of every technician service call and using refrigerant leak monitoring systems.
- Strengthen maintenance regimes: A maintenance program designed to enhance refrigeration performance, for instance with regular case cleaning, will help reduce energy use and GHG emissions, as well as avoid costly product loss when cooling systems break down.
- Transition to natural refrigerants: As retailers make updates and plan new construction, investing in the right refrigerants and equipment is critical for meeting federal regulations, which phase down the production and use of HFCs by 85 percent by 2036. Natural refrigerants, including CO2, ammonia, and propane, are considered the more eco-friendly solution to reduce HFC emissions by grocery and superstore retailers, according to the NASRC.
3. Fast EV Charging Stations
Thanks to the passing of the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the U.S. is seeing an unprecedented push for electric vehicles, which has led more and more grocery retailers to add EV charging stations as a convenience for shoppers. In particular, grocers are eager to adopt the latest fast charging stations, which thanks to recent significant advancements in the technology, can power up EVs within 15 minutes.
Not only that, there will be more emphasis on converting grocery fleets to electric, necessitating special EV charging stations specifically for delivery trucks. In addition to taking advantage of uncapped tax credits available through the IRA, grocery stores can help offset infrastructure costs by adding a digital ad revenue stream integrated with charging technology.
But while the adoption of EV charging infrastructure is critical for continued growth, most retailers currently don’t have the electrical capacity to offer this convenience to customers at full scale, which means facilities management leaders will be looking for new technologies and best practices to help reduce demand on the energy grid in the coming years.
4. Investment in Technology and Data Analytics
It’s no surprise that as part of an industry-wide trend toward increasing efficiencies and monitoring energy consumption, grocery facilities management leaders are investing in new technology systems and data analytics — especially as energy prices continue to rise at the same time that technologies are becoming more affordable. Here are some of the most leading-edge tools facilities managers are exploring this year:
● Energy Management Systems (EMS)
An EMS helps grocery stores track and manage energy consumption and meet sustainability goals for reducing carbon emissions. According to UNIDO (the United Nations Industry Development Organization), the majority of companies that have implemented EMS have seen two to three times the annual energy savings as those without an EMS.
An EMS is best paired with a data analytics platform, such as City’s Spark+ system, an IoT-powered energy management software tool that consolidates all the data from a grocery facility’s EMS systems. Continuously monitoring temperatures in refrigeration and other food and beverage equipment to ensure compliance with food safety requirements, it sends automatic alerts in case of any irregularities, helping prevent energy waste as well as product loss. Through City’s EMS services, large grocery chains averaging 45,000-square-foot stores typically see a 10 percent reduction in energy use and a 4 percent reduction in energy cost.
● Predictive Technology
Predictive maintenance helps grocery store facilities managers avoid issues before they lead to equipment failure, unexpected downtime, and the loss of product. Predictive maintenance tools can utilize various technologies in predictive analytics, including ultrasound technology, infrared analysis, vibration analysis, laser-shaft alignment, and AI and machine learning. As a testament to the potential of this technology, SOUNDTech+, the City branded ultrasound predictive maintenance tool powered by DST, has a track record of preventing catastrophic refrigeration failure with 99% accuracy.
● IoT Framework
Through a network of sensors placed on multiple assets across multiple systems, smart technology gives visibility into energy consumption and allows for central control over equipment. Utilizing both predictive analytics and real-time data and allowing energy management systems to communicate with each other, such an IoT system can reduce energy consumption and costs. It can also make it easier for grocery facilities managers to make fully informed decisions that will help protect perishable food products and ensure food safety.