There isn’t a refrigeration manufacturer out there who hasn’t made a claim about the energy efficiency of their products. But who do you believe? Foster’s marketing manager, Laura Kirk, gives her view on what data should be trusted.
Foster takes the view that it is of fundamental importance to the food service sector that equipment suppliers undertake vigorous testing that will provide meaningful and independent data to consumers.
But how does anyone decide which commercial refrigerator is better than any other? What does it mean when a manufacturer claims 60%, 70% or even 80% energy savings? What do these percentages mean? What do the figures compare to and what is the real value behind the percentages quoted? It is Foster’s view that there is very little clarity in the current marketplace.
Trying to cut through the increasing mass of energy claims to make informed purchasing decisions has become increasingly difficult in recent years. The catering press does an excellent job in reliably informing purchasers on what’s new to the market, but it rarely undertakes critical analysis or detailed comparisons. Buyers are therefore left to compare and contrast a plethora of what can only be ‘less than independent’ claims from the manufacturers themselves.
Product testing is, of course, part of modern life. Whether it’s conducted by established consumer champions such as Which? or whether it’s conducted within the pages of industry publications, most manufactured products and consumer goods are regularly tested and reported on, and those results are duly published to aid decision making.
Cars, consumer electronics, white goods of all descriptions – few escape the scrutiny of independent testing. If anything, it is unusual not to see more of it in the commercial refrigeration industry.
There are three main methods to obtain data on product performance. These are:
1) Manufacturers testing
2) Independent Testing
3) Customer Testing
Currently, most manufacturers test the product themselves to recognised standards and publish that data in their own material or on the Enhanced Capital Allowance scheme (ECA). This is however, self-certified data and will depend on how the manufacturer has interpreted the standards, the reliability and calibration of their equipment and how they choose to present the data.
The Ecodesign Directive (Energy related Products) being formulated as part of a European Union approach, will introduce in 2014 an energy labelling scheme whereby the manufacturers test data will form the basis for energy labels and the energy data contained within them.
This will be to a common European standard so all products within the EU must demonstrate compliance with an agreed test standard. This will be a significant step forward BUT, similar to the current domestic appliance test processes, will once again be primarily based on self-certified data.
Pending the Ecodesign Directive, use of independent data provides a benchmark in a sea of ‘green wash’ created by ever increasing energy claims. Independent testing and benchmarking is the most objective process from which customers can only benefit by helping them make informed purchasing decisions.
An independent test house must work to a known standard which in the case of commercial refrigeration in the UK currently accepted as EN441. This is a strict test process against which every product is measured. Again, far from being ambiguous, this is a more accurate, objective, reliable & measurable comparison than anything that exists in the market today.
In fact, the Ecodesign Directive will mandate that all member states implement the systematic use of independent testing to verify the self-certified energy credentials of products placed on the market. EuP regulators recognise that independent scrutiny is fundamental to maintaining the integrity of the energy labelling process.
Foster has always taken the view that an independently-tested product, whilst not necessarily a perfect solution, provides the most objective and unbiased view of product performance available to customers. That’s why Foster has always had its products’ performance independently verified. It is then up to the customers to decide who they prefer to rely on – the information provided by the manufacturer or information provided by an independent test organisation. More information is more power – it’s as simple as that.
Clearly independent testing can only be a ‘representation’ of a real life kitchen environment. It cannot take into account the uniqueness of individual catering operations and usage. For this reason Foster has encouraged customers to verify product performance for themselves in real kitchens in real world conditions – all Foster has done is provide energy monitors.
Foster is a staunch advocate and defender of independent and customer testing and believes that customers will, ultimately, make up their own minds about what data they choose to trust, drawing their own conclusions about those companies who defend the status quo.
In short, the catering industry should demand to see more independent testing of products right across the industry’s equipment and supply base, with a view to bringing the ‘buying decision-making process’ far more into line with other sectors.
Independently generated knowledge is most definitely the power most coveted by consumers making significant investments in catering equipment.