The light commercial refrigeration market in China is one of the most widely represented across all of China for natural refrigerants with hundreds of thousands of hydrocarbons and CO2 installations already placed across the country. The driving force behind this mass adoption has been the global commitment of large multinational consumer brands; but the benefits are more far-reaching than merely being environmentally friendly. In addition to hydrocarbons and R744’s environmental virtues, efficiency gains of 45% have been reported compared to traditional HFC models, meaning both energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions are minimised.  

Global consumer brands giving clear visibility to hydrocarbons and CO2 

Global consumer brands such as The Coca-Cola Company, Red Bull, Unilever, Nestle and PepsiCo are all engaged in placing natural refrigerant-based “point of sale” equipment to display their products. This trend in China is part a global strategy that is seeing a massive switch from fluorinated to natural refrigerants in equipment such as: ice cream freezers, drinks cabinets, stand alone cabinets and vending machines. The tightening of global policy regarding emissions and energy efficiency is leading companies to improve their point of sale equipment, which are seen as “low-hanging fruit” by many with regards to actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).  Already across the globe, there have been 3.7 million natural-refrigerant based units installed. These numbers are largely a reflection of the “Refrigerants, Naturally!” group, who have set themselves the target of implementing as many natural-based installations in their point of sale equipment as possible and is comprised of: Red Bull, The Coca Cola Company, Unilever and PepsiCo. This form of voluntary action shows how quickly markets can change in composition and serves as a clear example of best practice for other markets to emulate. 

Light commercial industry expects both CO2 and hydrocarbons to play a strong role in the future 

The results of the GUIDE China survey, which collected the opinions and expectations of nearly 1,100 respondents, showed that the industry is optimistic about the future use of natural refrigerants in the light commercial refrigeration sector. When the industry was asked which refrigerant they saw as having the more favourable market and policy climate currently, there was a clear leaning towards hydrocarbons over CO2. However, when asked about which of these refrigerants they saw the greater future for, the results were nearly equal, showing the expectation that CO2 will play a larger role in the future alongside hydrocarbons.  This current understanding that hydrocarbons are the more widely-used refrigerants is backed up by the installation numbers that shecco collected fro China from the industry: 

  • 400,000 stand alone cabinets use hydrocarbons
  • 322,000 ice cream freezers use hydrocarbons
  • 2,500 bottle coolers and vending machines use hydrocarbons
  • 25,000 bottle coolers and vending machines use CO2

Consumer brands also driving forward training

 In addition to placing hydrocarbons or CO2-based equipment in China, large consumer brands such as Unilever and The Coca Cola Company are also pro-active in providing training. Linda Zhang of Coca Cola noted that:

 “We (Coca Cola) have arranged training for our bottlers and suppliers in China in order to develop skills in handling the CO2 refrigeration equipment.”

This was backed-up by John Sears of Unilever who said:

“We usually set up training in countries where there is very little understanding of hydrocarbons-based technology to ensure safety. As a result of this initiative and other training programmes out there, it is slowly becoming more common to find hydrocarbon-trained technicians.” 

The large numbers of installations, combined with the efforts to ensure long-term supply of technicians and large energy-efficiency gains means that the dynamic of the Chinese light commercial market is shifting further and further to CO2 and hydrocarbons. This positive trend is shared by the industry, with 85% of respondents to the GUIDE China survey noting that they expect the use of natural refrigerants in the light commercial refrigeration sector to increase by 2020. 


Download the GUIDE to Natural Refrigerants in China – State of the Industry 2015 from the shecco publications
Download the GUIDE to Natural Refrigerants in China – State of the Industry 2015 from the shecco publications

Author jamesranson