One solution was rolled out nationwide in late January by Structural Concepts. The Atmosphere multideck
case uses a unique “nebulizing” system to produce mists
of cooled water in ultrafine droplets about eight times
smaller on average than those of conventional misters.
The droplets are produced by a membrane in which 1.6
million vibrations per second are induced by piezoelectricity, says Jeff Schneider, Structural Concepts’ SVP of sales,
marketing and strategic planning. The nebulized droplets
cool more efficiently and vaporize faster, he says, leaving
less water residue on the product and inside the case.
“These are the two main benefits: It’s a much bet-ter-looking presentation, and you can get more variety
into the same linear feet,” Schneider says.
Seeing the Light
Lighting is important for both appearance and product
protection. If it’s the wrong kind of lighting and/or too
intense, it could end up harming the product. Many suppliers are moving from fluorescent to LED lighting for
case interiors, for the same reasons that this switch gets
made in general: LEDs last longer and use less energy. But
it’s important to specify them correctly.
Henken of api(+) says it’s important for the “color temperature” inside a case to harmonize with that of the store
in general. (Color temperature is a measure of the intensity of the color produced by a light, expressed in Kelvins.)
“You also want to coordinate the lighting within the
departments so that you don’t see a radical change in the
lighting,” he says. “LEDs are allowing us a lot of variation
in color temperature, but they can also be problematic if
you don’t pay attention to color temperature throughout
the whole environment.”
In addition to showcasing the product, lighting must
also be engineered not to damage it. This includes lighting
smaller store formats, which makes every cubic inch of
cooler-case space even more valuable. “Everybody’s going
to a smaller format, so they’re trying to ‘dense up the box,’”
says Tom Henken, director of design for api(+), a design
and architectural firm that specializes in retail spaces.
An Air of Gravity
Until relatively recently, closed display cases for meat and
seafood could have only one tier because the cooled air
inside the case has to move around as slowly as possible,
preferably by gravity. (As air is cooled, it becomes denser
and sinks; the evaporator coils at the top of the case that
cool this air are called “gravity coils.”) Fanning the air to
move it faster runs the risk of drying out the product—
but until recently, this forced-air method was the only
practical way of maintaining temperature uniformly for
a multishelf display. Air cooled from above would be
impeded by the top shelf from reaching the bottom shelf
in amounts adequate to maintain cooling.
However, several suppliers have come out with cases
designed to display meat and seafood on multiple levels
while keeping the temperature uniform and not propelling air quickly enough to damage the product.
Perhaps the earliest was the two-shelf Coolgenix system, introduced by Hillphoenix about eight years ago.
Coolgenix circulates glycol refrigerant through channels in the bottoms of the display pans, cooling product
through conduction. In two-shelf cases, the glycol runs
through the bottoms of the pans in both shelves. Although
this conduction provides most of the cooling, a small
gravity coil at the top of the case assists in tempering the
air and maintaining natural air circulation and humidity.
Other multideck cases use forced air circulation and
counteract the drying effect with mists of water. The drawback: This can be hard to fine-tune, especially in cases that
show products with differing absorption rates. Products
that look too wet can lose eye appeal, and water can collect
on the inside of the front glass, impeding shoppers’ views.
in the meat case, vs.
meat that’s cut and
packaged by store
Source: North American
A Hot Tip for Cooler Cases
One aspect of refrigerated protein cases that often gets
overlooked is overall aesthetics. Because cases get designed
off-site, it can be challenging to integrate them into the wider
“A lot of times, we want to integrate that fixture with the rest
of the environment,” says Tom Henken, director of design at
api(+). “And some of the fixtures aren’t very customizable. They
come with case profiles that don’t want to accept any millwork or
finishes other than paint. So the flexibility of the skin on fixtures
is kind of an important thing that hasn’t really been [considered].”
Retailers with a unique store design, which imparts an
important part of the overall shopping experience, would do well
to inquire about the degree to which a display case’s finish can
The Atmosphere line of refrigerated cases
from Structural Concepts, which uses
ultrafine cooled water droplets, allows fresh
proteins to be displayed in multiple tiers.
Retail Foodservice Pillars Equipment & Design