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Refrigerated Merchandisers Buying Guide

Refrigerated Merchandisers Buying Guide

Refrigerated merchandisers and freezer merchandisers share many similar components with other commercial refrigeration products. This guide will show you some of the similarities and differences between types of merchandisers and commercial refrigerators, and also help you select the right type of merchandiser for anything from ice cream sandwiches to fresh baked goods!

Merchandising Refrigerators and Freezers

What's the Difference Between a Reach-In Refrigerator and a Merchandiser?

Even though a glass door merchandiser and a glass door reach-in refrigerator might be the same size and look very similar, the biggest difference is in what types of food products they are able to hold.

  • Reach-Ins: A commercial reach-in refrigerator is able to hold both closed food products (like bottles of sauces, milk, juices, etc.) and open food products (like food pans full of diced tomatoes, trays of prepared salads, a pan of macaroni salad for the buffet, etc.). Because the interiors of these units have the potential to come in contact with food, certain types of material and design criteria must be met for sanitary reasons.
  • Merchandisers: A merchandiser, on the other hand is only able to be used for packaged, sealed products. Because these units don't meet the stricter, "food zone" interior requirements that a storage refrigerator does, your health inspector may write you up if you store open food products in a merchandiser.

Different Types of Specialty Merchandiser Refrigerators

Merchandising refrigerators and freezers come in a dizzying range of sizes and shapes, from countertop models to large 3 section floor units. Like air curtains, these pieces of equipment are only designed for packaged products. Eye-catching, lighted top sections, bright interior lighting, and exterior color choices are designed to catch customers' attention and help your products look their best.

Convenience store merchandisers look like miniaturized versions of traditional merchandisers. Their lower height and smaller footprint help to increase visibility throughout the store, and maximize space usage in C-stores or other locations where space is an issue.

Glass sided merchandisers are often used for baked goods and show off your freshest products from multiple angles. Some even have revolving shelves.

Glass door wine merchandiser with 14 shelves

Wine merchandisers substitute standard wire shelves for racks that hold wine bottles at just the right angle for optimum visibility. They are also designed to maintain the best temperatures for storing wine, so as to preserve the quality and integrity of your stock.

What Should I Consider When Buying a Commercial Merchandiser Refrigerator?

  • Access Type: Both swinging and sliding doors are usually available with merchandising refrigerators and freezers. Sliding doors might be a good choice if your aisles are narrow, but they may not seal as well as swinging doors and might be less energy-efficient in the long term.
  • Lighting: LED interior lighting is becoming popular as an option, and it is even standard equipment on some models. The advantages of LED lighting over traditional fluorescent bulbs include brighter, more even output, less heat output and energy consumption, and much longer service life. Other lighting types may be more economical upfront, but be sure to consider the long-term when making your choice.
  • Upgrades & Options: Many merchandisers offer an array of interior upgrades and options, such as special bottle shelves for bottled beverages, pricing strips, and the ability to specify the combination of interior and exterior colors you desire.

Air Curtain Merchandisers

What are the Benefits of an Air Curtain Merchandiser?

Avantco BVAC-46HC 46 inch Black Refrigerated Air Curtain Merchandiser

An air curtain merchandiser is one of the most popular styles of food display cases in use. Because they allow customers to easily view and select products like bottled beverages, pre-packaged salads or entrees, without having to open a door, you can achieve great increases in traffic and sales while simultaneously reducing your labor costs. Vertical and horizontal styles are available, both of which come in various sizes and capacities.

How Does an Air Curtain Merchandiser Work?

An air curtain merchandiser works by circulating air across the front of the unit, keeping the bottle beverages or packaged foods inside at safe holding temperatures. Because of the velocity of the air that moves across the front of the unit, it works as a barrier to reduce temperature exchange between the interior of the unit and the surrounding environment.

Air curtains, like most merchandisers, can't display open (unpackaged) foods, or raw items.

Can I Put Warm Items in My Air Curtain Merchandiser to Chill Them?

You should always make sure that the products you are putting into your merchandiser are already cold. Air curtains (and most merchandisers for that matter) are not designed to chill warm product to cold temperatures, they are simply for holding already cold products, and keeping them cold.

Where Should I Install My Air Curtain Merchandiser?

Because air curtain merchandisers keep their contents cool with a screen of air and are mostly open, where you place the merchandiser is crucial to maximize efficiency, as well as maintain satisfactory and food-safe product temperatures. Most manufacturers make the following recommendations as far as placement:

  • Temperature and humidity of the location should not exceed 75 degrees Fahrenheit and 55% relative humidity.
  • Do not place the unit near HVAC vents, fans or doorways that would disrupt the airflow.
  • Do not place the unit in direct sunlight.
  • Keep the merchandiser fully stocked. Air curtains will operate most efficiently when fully loaded with product.

What is a "Night Curtain" and Why is it Important?

A night cover is a good option to conserve energy during off-hours. Many manufacturers offer two types: a roll-down cover that primarily keeps cold air in, and lockable, secure types that prevent theft as well as conserve energy.

Dual Service Merchandisers (AKA Starbucks Merchandisers)

Dual service merchandiser with a full service top case and lower air curtain merchandiser filled with bottled drinks and sandwiches

Popular in coffee shops and delis, dual service merchandisers combine an air curtain lower section where customers can grab their own bottled drinks or prepackaged items, with an enclosed top section for displaying fresh bakery items your staff can serve via sliding rear doors.

The top section can be refrigerated or unrefrigerated; some models are "split" and you can have one half refrigerated and the other half unrefrigerated. Most of the same purchasing considerations apply to this type of merchandiser as to full size air curtain merchandisers.

Ice Merchandisers

Polar Temp two door indoor ice merchandiser with blue ICE merchandising graphics

Ice merchandisers come in both indoor and outdoor models and a range of sizes, and let you easily sell bagged ice. Indoor models are perfect for use inside a grocery store, liquor store, or convenience store. Outdoor ice merchandisers are made of durable materials and are made to withstand the elements for convenient placement outside your business.

When you want to sell bagged ice, an ice merchandiser is a must-have. Customers need bagged ice for many purposes like keeping food cold or chilling beverages, so providing this option at your grocery store, market, or liquor store is a great way to boost sales. Choosing the right merchandiser can help you capture ice sales and make the most of this addition to your business.

What are Some Things to Consider When Buying an Ice Merchandiser?

  • Cooling System: Models that use a cold wall refrigeration system use a series of copper wires running through the walls to keep the ice cold. This can cause condensation to occur on the walls of cold wall merchandisers, meaning they will need to be defrosted and cleaned regularly.
  • Automatic Defrost: Auto defrost models utilize a forced air refrigeration system where cold air is pumped into the cabinet with fans. This cuts down the amount of condensation forming inside the cabinet; any condensation that does form is removed by an automatic condensation evaporator system.

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