The North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council (NASRC), a nonprofit promoting natural refrigerants in supermarkets, has released a survey report Indicating interest on the part of U.S. food retailers in natural refrigerant-based stand-alone condensing units, for both display cases and walk-in coolers and freezers.

The report, released on March 17, summarizes the results of a survey of 13 major food retailers, representing more than 17,000 outlets in the U.S.

“The most significant takeaway from the report is that it demonstrates a strong demand for natural refrigerant-based condensing unit technologies in the US, with 100% of participating retailers indicating interest,” said Danielle Wright, Executive Director of NASRC, in a statement.

The respondents said they liked the potential of natural-refrigerant-based condensing units to “provide flexibility” to serve unique load types and contribute to overall GWP-reduction targets.

This conclusion is not only valid for new installations. The report also finds that almost 80% of the retailers are interested in CO2 (R744) and propane (R290) condensing units for refurbishment of existing stores.

“The real challenge is how to accelerate emissions reduction in the 38,000 stores that exist today,” Wright said. “We need solutions that can be phased in as part of the normal equipment replacement schedule and serve the refrigeration capacity expansion that is happening across the food retail sector today due to the rise in online shopping.”

A majority (53%) of the surveyed retailers indicated a preference for CO2-based condensing units to serve medium- temperature display cases as a first priority application. By contrast, 90% selected walk-in coolers as the first-priority application for R290 condensing units. (R290 condensing units are widely used in the U.S. as part of stand-alone display cases.)

Despite the capability of natural refrigerant products to reduce the overall GWP of refrigeration systems, and despite the increased interest from end users, “very few product options are available in the U.S. market compared to Europe and Asia,” NASRC said.

“Ultimately, our goal is to bring more natural refrigerant product solutions to the U.S. market,” Wright added. “This report was the first step in bridging the information gap by leveraging our strong network of stakeholders.” 

NASRC, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, has 130+ members, including manufacturers, contractors and food retailers that together operate more than 28,000 supermarkets.

In October 2020, the organization launched a member directory aiming to facilitate contact among supermarket refrigeration stakeholders, and connect natural refrigerant system providers, contractors and food retailers.

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