The quest to develop the most energy efficient products is only set to intensify among catering equipment suppliers, but how much of this battle is about making a tangible difference to a commercial kitchen and how much is just marketing hype?
On the panel
– Glen Crossland, Marketing Manager, Dawson MMP
– Diane Ho, Brand Manager, Glen Dimplex Professional Appliances
– Nick McDonald, Marketing & Export Director, Lincat
– Steve Elliott, National Sales Manager, Valentine Equipment
– Malcolm Harling, Sales & Marketing Director, Williams Refrigeration
– Paul Crowley, Marketing Manager, Winterhalter
What tests do you carry out to measure the energy efficiency of your products and are these independently verified?
NICK MCDONALD: Lincat equipment is designed and manufactured here in the UK. We have invested heavily through the years in in-house R&D and testing facilities. This enables us to test the performance of our equipment accurately and ensure that it operates as efficiently as possible. Our customers can rely completely on the detailed performance figures we provide for every piece of equipment.
MALCOLM HARLING: The ECA list covers only upright fridges and freezers and counters. We have been pushing to extend this but as yet customers can only obtain tax benefits from these few products. Equipment models on the ECA list have to be independently verified. We work with two independent test houses on the design of our products, especially our hydrocarbon range. As a result, we are one of the few companies to have refrigeration products under the 150gm limit, thus enabling the user to place the product in most enclosed environments without concern. All our component suppliers, most of which are within a 50 mile radius of Kings Lynn, also have their products independently tested, so we are sure of our supply chain.
PAUL CROWLEY: This is a minefield as each manufacturer will test in the same — but also different — ways. Tests can include energy used during a wash cycle, when idle or even during the start-up or shut down processes. We use very scientific methods that test every element of a machine’s operating process, whether it is start-up, heat-up, operation regeneration or close down. One of the measurements that we take that we believe few other manufacturers do — rigorously anyway — is to measure the energy that escapes during the wash or after the wash.
DIANE HO: Our products are tested to industry-recognised standards as per ECA/ETL criteria. For example, display products are tested to BS/EN 23953-2-2005 and commercial service products to BS/EN 441: 1995/1996. Our products are tested by our engineers in temperature-controlled test rooms and then verified by approved independent third parties.
Some dealers insist that as far as many operators are concerned, the capital purchase price and functionality of a product are still far more important than its energy efficiency benefits. Are manufacturers guilty of over-hyping the energy efficiency issue?
MALCOLM HARLING: In the last two years, capital cost has become a more important buying criteria than energy efficiency. However, end-users now expect refrigeration suppliers to be able to demonstrate their products’ energy efficiency characteristics — they’re having their cake and eating it! Meanwhile there is some confusion as to what energy savings are. For example, if someone says a product is 15% more efficient, what does it mean? More efficient than what? Currently the only real, verified proof of energy efficiency comes via the ECA list.
STEVE ELLIOTT: The business model for optimum efficiency has to focus on total life cost, including purchase price, energy costs, oil capacity, reliability and functional life of the equipment. Take Ian Porter of the Enniskeen Hotel in Northern Ireland, who replaced his old Valentine Fryer with a new one after 51 years of service. Perhaps 51 years isn’t the norm, but it is an excellent story that highlights the theory that the total picture is not just about energy efficiency.
NICK MCDONALD: It’s true, of course, especially with such a weak economy, that functionality and purchase price are very important to people. However, with energy costs ever increasing, I’m certain that energy efficiency will come ever more to the fore. I expect to see demand for energy efficient equipment take off as we emerge from the current economic gloom. This is being borne out already by the healthy demand we’ve enjoyed for our new range of energy efficient products, including the Vortech fryer, which we believe heralds a new era in gas fryer technology.
GLEN CROSSLAND: Purchase price and functionality of products are most certainly key buying factors. However, we urge dealers and end-users to never underestimate the efficiency of appliances. Cost in use must be considered and communicated with end users to help them make their purchasing decision. We fully understand there are cheaper alternatives of catering equipment always available to end-users, but if these use twice or three times as much energy, water or detergents then these products are indirectly more expensive and this is when the reality of quality, reliable and innovative products are a far better option for 99% of customers.
Over-hyping, of course, can confuse customers and turn the marketing of energy efficient products into a battle of who quotes the highest percentage savings. We believe that the best hype a product can get is from a representative who actually uses or owns one themselves. Case studies and site references are a great tool for end-users to truly understand what are ‘hyped claims’ or truly happy customers who are experiencing a truly ‘green’ product range first hand.
When it comes to the energy efficiency of a new product, how much of a problem is ambiguous marketing for the equipment industry?
STEVE ELLIOTT: We try to build a lasting relationship with our users, be they a large multi-site brand or a public school in the west of England. It seems only right and proper to explain how the improvements will benefit the end-user and their operation. The refrigeration sector is the only product group that has energy tests and strict procedures to follow and benchmark equipment against. CESA is working on some benchmarking for other equipment product groups. Without the approved test criteria, how can the end-user be sure that the marketing material they are given is correct?
PAUL CROWLEY: This is a huge problem for manufacturers and customers alike. Each manufacturer makes certain claims about the efficiency of their products and some are clearly more ambiguous than others. We would never claim anything that could not be proven. That said, Winterhalter is working with CESA, DEFRA and other manufacturers to try and develop a methodology and benchmark so that measurements can be made against an industry standard — similar to the A, B, C, D, E ratings used in domestic appliances. It is expected to be several years before it is established. This will take away the romantic claims made by some manufacturers, but ultimately it will ensure that buyers have absolute clarity in their buying decisions.
GLEN CROSSLAND: Unclear marketing can, of course, become a problem for the industry if manufacturers solely provide a given percentage claim without further quantifiable data. At Dawson we make our product messages as simple to understand as possible to enable the end-user to make a clear judgement on what product ranges they decide to purchase. We pride our business on intelligent innovation and ecological efficiency, so delivering these messages both factually and clearly is of paramount importance.
NICK MCDONALD: At present it is extremely difficult for customers to make meaningful comparisons between equipment. This is due to the lack of an industry-wide system for assessing energy efficiency against fixed operating parameters. I would be very much in favour of developing and adopting such a system.
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Not all buyers may regard energy efficiency as an important criteria. What incentives are you giving dealers to overcome this?
PAUL CROWLEY: It would be naive to suggest we don’t offer some incentives but we try our very best to educate our dealers in the benefits of using energy efficient equipment. We cannot force end-users or indeed dealers to buy energy efficient products but we can entice and communicate the benefits of this type of equipment. I believe that eventually customers will be forced to buy this type of equipment by the government or face the consequences.
DIANE HO: We work with government schemes such as the ECA scheme to get our products approved in order to equip our customers to sell the benefits onto their customers. We also support them by educating them on the benefits of purchasing a more energy efficient and environmentally-friendly product.
GLEN CROSSLAND: This is something we have rarely come across as a problem, as purchasing managers and chefs see our products as a complete offering. We have chefs specify our equipment for combination ovens and prime cooking equipment that are simple to use, durable and fit for purpose. Purchasing managers relate to this along with the added selling point of ecological efficiencies.
MALCOLM HARLING: The main thing distributors need is information. We offer this in two broad ways. Firstly, we give them extensive data on energy performance, so they can demonstrate to customers where savings can be achieved. Secondly, we offer extensive training to both distributors and their customers.
What are you doing to make dealers aware of the energy efficiency benefits of your products and what steps are you taking to ensure these are properly understood and articulated?
DIANE HO: We believe that educating customers and end-users on the clear savings which can be made through purchasing a more energy efficient and environmentally-friendly product, both in the short term and the long term, is the way to ensure that the energy efficiency benefits of our products are communicated. Hence, we work closely with our internal sales team and customer service teams, as well as promoting the benefits via our literature, PR and advertising campaigns.
MALCOLM HARLING: We have a number of training and presentation aids that are specific and unique to our dealers. Also, Williams has recently launched its CSR and greenlogic brochures, outlining not only what energy efficient products we manufacture but also covering our sustainability policy — and our focus on ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’. Copies are available free of charge and downloadable from our website.
GLEN CROSSLAND: We have communication plans in place which are keeping dealers informed of all the Dawson product news updates, which we send out every two weeks. It is extremely important that dealers know everything which is available to them from our range as we are constantly developing our product portfolio together with our manufacturing partners to further increase the energy efficiency of the products we offer. Along with this we keep all social media platforms and our website news feeds updated on a weekly basis.
STEVE ELLIOTT: We have a policy of using case studies that highlight the experiences of the users of Valentine Fryers. We make sure that there is relevant information sent to our dealers on a regular basis and we also offer help and support. We even arrange visits to foodservice operators with the dealer to assist in this education process.