Chilled and frozen display cabinets in c-stores could become obsolete in a few years after the major multiples announced last month that they were no longer willing to invest in equipment containing global-warming gases.
Representatives of ASDA, M&S, Sainsbury's, Somerfield, Tesco and Waitrose united at the RAC07 exhibition to challenge manufacturers to find natural alternatives to environmentally-damaging HFC refrigerants, which may be banned as early as 2015 under forthcoming legislation. This could leave the independent trade without support for current chiller equipment.
Bob Arthur of M&S said: "We cannot invest in technology with an expected life span of 20 years or more when there is such a high degree of uncertainty over the long-term future of HFCs."
Tesco's Andy Campbell told equipment manufacturers: "Natural refrigerants are going to come. If you don't get up to speed on this you are going to lose out."
Food and drink suppliers including Coca-Cola and Unilever are currently rolling out worldwide programmes to replace their branded chillers with models using carbon dioxide or natural hydrocarbon gases.