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Fresh Insights: Glass door merchandising is a fast-growing trend in produce

The produce industry is changing at lightning speed. There are a number of new products, merchandising techniques, equipment and other ideas constantly being introduced into the world of produce.

Walt Disney once said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

I personally learn something new even by seeing something old.Glass-Door-Merchandising-3Glass door merchandising offers the benefit of reducing energy costs while also limiting shrink. If you stopped at a gas station to fill up and ran inside to pick up a cold soda, you most likely got it from a refrigerated case with glass doors.

Most convenience stores and drug stores now have these display cases across the back walls. Those cases are really an older concept of a common household refrigerator. They stand upright and have a door and retain the cold air inside to protect the products. Supermarkets now use them for frozen food, dairy and meat products.

This type of fixture is now a new fast-growing trend making its way into the produce departments. Glass door refrigerated display cases are being installed by many retailers as a better way to merchandise fresh fruits, vegetables, dressings, dips and juices in produce departments.

In addition to labor, utilities constitute a large amount of supermarket expenses and refrigeration is one of the top components of a utility bill. It’s all about cost control these days. Every penny saved goes directly to the bottom-line profit.

The days of displaying food products in open-top refrigerated cases are quickly coming to an end. That style loses much of its cold air and constantly keeps equipment running, which contributes much wear and tear to parts. Energy sustainability plays a huge role in operating companies today. Ideally, glass door cases can help retailers keep their energy costs in check.

Here are some of the basic benefits of glass door merchandising:

Visual impact

There is a dramatic product presentation that immediately captures a customer’s attention. The impact of seeing a line of glass door units with produce stocked from top to bottom as a solid wall is very impressive. Shelf after shelf of produce is facing the customers and motivates explosive sales.

Additional space

The vertical height of the cases opens up supplemental space to stock product with better inventory control. This allows for more item variety and choices for the shoppers.

Energy saving

One of the largest portions of supermarket expenses is related to energy. Installing the glass door units in the produce department can result in as much as a 70 percent reduction in energy costs.

Shrink control

The addition of the doors on these units contains refrigeration and maintains the proper temperatures, allowing the product longer shelf life. For this reason, there is a 20 percent reduction in shrink experienced by the produce department on items displayed in the cases. Bagged salads experience up to 30 percent less shrink.

Less maintenance

Refrigeration compressors experience much less wear, resulting in fewer service calls and replacement parts.

Jeff Tomassetti, produce director for Buehler’s Fresh Foods in Wooster, OH, said, “We love the look and the efficiency [of glass door refrigerated cases]. Customers are really shopping the door units. Juice, vegan and salads look great behind doors. We definitely have seen less shrink in bagged salads and organics.”

Doug Weikert, produce supervisor and buyer for Coborn’s Inc. in St. Cloud, MN, added, “Coborn’s believes glass door merchandising is the wave of the future. We have 30 percent of all produce departments now and moving to 50 percent in the immediate future with the exception of misted products. There is energy savings with less cooling costs in cases. No reduction in sales where glass door merchandising has been installed and no dehydration issues with produce. Less overall shrink.”

One of the challenges for retailers at this point is getting over the merchandising hurdles. Many are still in the experimental and learning stages of trying different ways in which to put the entire layout design in place. Most packaged items are there, but bulk produce still requires resolving.

The key to merchandising with glass door cases is using the proper types of equipment racks for each product category. There are shelf sets, POD sets and vertical sets of shelving equipment for the glass door merchandising units.

Carlson-Airflo, based in Brooklyn Park, MN, has innovative solutions for customized equipment racks designed to enhance merchandising profiles, especially for bulk produce. Check its website at for more information.

The future is here and now. New trends continue to rise up in the produce industry. We must recognize these changes and move on them quickly in order to help raise the bar on produce industry growth.