Distributors reveal threats to ‘green’ growth

Discrepancies in customer attitudes towards energy efficient equipment continue to pose a barrier to the sale of ‘green’ kit, distributors have warned.

With suppliers aggressively marketing the power-saving credentials of their products, energy efficiency has never been more in the spotlight.

But distributors say that convincing end-users to procure the most energy efficient solution isn’t always as straightforward as it sounds, often because of the associated higher purchasing costs with such products.

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“[Energy efficiency] is high on their agenda without a doubt, but it comes down to just how far they want to implement it,” said Kevin Geehan, director of Warwickshire-based Red Squared. “The procurement guys that we deal with, not just on a project basis but an individual replacement basis, are very keen to know what is available from an energy efficient point of view. It is considered quite a high priority, but obviously that priority may come at an additional cost.”

Chris Miles, national accounts manager at Worcestershire-based distributor Sprint Group, agrees that rising energy prices and utility prices are making customers of all sizes evaluate the kind of savings that green equipment can deliver, but he says it is mainly operators of multiple sites which are realising the benefits.

“The individual sites don’t regard it as such a high priority, it’s more of a buzz topic with them. A single operator is often put off by the initial outlay and the higher cost of a greener kitchen, as they will find it harder to earn the difference back, whereas the multiple sites are more open to it and can see the bigger picture.”

Even if the long-term argument for sourcing greener equipment is compelling, factors such as the capital purchasing cost and who in the decision-making chain is signing off the purchase continue to influence buying behaviour.

“If it’s a relatively small/medium owner/operator business, price still plays a major part in decision-making,” says Steve Holley, sales director of Hampshire-based HCE Foodservice Equipment. “While energy efficiency would be considered, this will often be ‘the decider’ if prices for alternative equipment received were similar and one particular appliance had ‘greener credentials’ over the others.”

Red Squared’s Geehan suggests that the industry also needs to think harder about how it can prevent customers from being confused by disparities in the way that energy-saving claims are made.

“From a supplier point of view, I sometimes just wish manufacturers would go, ‘you know what, I am going to stand my cabinet up against this wall, you stand yours up against the same wall, we will all plug them into the same system, and see what really happens.’ Unfortunately that is never going to happen.”

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