The OEM’s Coca-Cola equipment will be available in hydrocarbons as well as CO2, part of a move to more energy-efficient propane and isobutane units.
Andres Martinez-Negrete, Imbera
Imbera, a division of Mexico-based Femsa, the largest Coca-Cola bottler in the world, is migrating its Coke beverage coolers to hydrocarbons as part of an overall transition to propane and isobutane refrigerants designed to meet higher efficiency standards.
Coke has long designated CO2 as its standard refrigerant for new beverage coolers, vending machines and fountain equipment. But last year, at the ATMOsphere America conference in Chicago, Antoine Azar, then the company’s global program director, announced that Coke would be open to hydrocarbon equipment for smaller cooler equipment.
“Our portfolio for Coke will be available in CO2 and hydrocarbons,” said Andres Martinez-Negrete, technology and product development director for Imbera, which displayed its latest models last month at the NAFEM Show in Orlando, Fla. Imbera has heretofore been a major supplier of CO2 coolers for Coke.
Martinez-Negrete noted that Coke is focusing on coolers with hydrocarbon charges smaller than 150 g, the maximum allowable charge in the U.S. for commercial equipment. “Coke has specific limits for each specific size and capacity,” he said.
For its foodservice equipment line, Imbera has migrated to hydrocarbons in the past year, both propane and isobutene for smaller equipment, said Martinez-Negrete. The migration will enable Imbera’s units to meet the Department of Energy’s new efficiency requirements, which take effect March 27. In addition, the company has started tweaking its cooler design to enable the units to meet the more stringent ENERGY STAR 4.0 standard that also kicks in on that date. “You need hydrocarbons to reach 4.0,” he added.
In 2017, the Coke coolers will be absorbed into the foodservice business, and all equipment “is going to meet DOE 2017 and ENERGY STAR 4.0,” said Martinez-Negrete. ENERGY STAR 4.0 “will be optional but preferred in the market. Without it, it will be harder to place equipment.” He acknowledged that some customers still prefer HFC equipment.
“You need hydrocarbons to reach [ENERGY STAR] 4.0."
– Andres Martinez-Negrete, Imbera
The U.S. market, where Imbera has sold about 20,000 hydrocarbon coolers, “is just beginning” to use that equipment; Mexico is much further along, with more than 350,000 installed hydrocarbon units.
Last year, Imbera’s manufacturing facility in Mexico was equipped with hydrocarbon production lines. Imbera is able to UL-certify spark-free hydrocarbon equipment in its own facilities, including flame-resistant plastic. The cost premium for hydrocarbon equipment is about 5%.
Imbera is interested in integrating variable-speed compressors in its units, though currently there’s a “cost hurdle to overcome,” Martinez-Negrete said.
Besides Coke, Imbera’s customers include other beverage makers, as well as unattended “micromarkets” that set up beverage and food coolers in offices and rely on self-checkout; the coolers are temperature-monitored and self-lock when temperatures rise above a certain level.