Italian OEMs Oscartielle, which is part of the Arneg Group, and Epta, as well as Japanese manufacturer Panasonic, were among the many exhibitors showcasing plug-in propane (R290)-based refrigerated “click-and-collect” supermarket lockers at the EuroShop 2023.
Other locker exhibitors presenting these lockers at the trade show, which took place February 26 to March 2 in Düsseldorf, Germany, included Finland’s CoolCenter, Belgium’s my eSafe and Poland’s ES System K.
The lockers, which are commonly used by supermarkets for click-and-collect shopping services, have grown in popularity over the last few years as consumers have demanded greater flexibility and convenience, explained representatives from the companies.
While largely similar, each manufacturer offered some variation in format and function.
Italian manufacturer of display cabinets Oscartielle first launched its CUB@ refrigerated lockers four years ago, explained Cristian Villa, the company’s Export Area Manager.
To date, Oscartielle has installed around 500 units, with the majority of installations being in Europe. While CUB@ can also be found in Canada and South America, the company plans to expand into new territories in the future, he added.
The lockers come in outdoor and indoor models and can either be R290 plug-in or connected remotely to the facility’s existing refrigeration system. According to Villa, the majority of installations have been plug-in due to the low-GWP and energy efficiency of propane.
CUB@’s modular design allows for flexibility, with up to 12 storage modules per control panel, and can include low-temperature (LT), medium-temperature (MT) and ambient-temperature units.
Demand for the lockers has been growing thanks to changing habits following the COVID-19 pandemic, with consumers looking for greater convenience, he said.
Originally launched in 2018, Epta Bricks is a plug-in R290 locker unit for commercial applications that comes in outdoor and indoor models. The units can include LT, MT and ambient-temperature modules.
Over the last five years, Epta has installed around 100 units in France, four in Italy, one in Australia and one in Mexico, said Pavel Pardo, the company’s EMEA Digital Project Manager.
Building on its experience to date, Epta has developed a new version of Epta Bricks, which was on display at EuroShop. In addition to supporting click-and-collect services, the new model is also designed to enable impulse purchases, acting like a large vending machine. For this function, compartments have clear doors, allowing customers to view its contents, which could include everything needed for a pasta dinner or aperitif, Pardo explained.
Other new elements include a power-saving mode, remote defrost, fully wireless operation, thicker door insulation and a more powerful condensing unit, he added.
With one of the new models installed in southern France – where Pardo says refrigerated lockers are particularly popular – Epta is aiming for more sales in more countries.
Panasonic Connect – the manufacturer’s R290-based refrigerated lockers for supermarkets – was launched in Europe in 2022 to meet the market demand for greater flexibility, convenience and last-mile efficiency, explained Edin Osmanovic, Head of Sales Supply Chain Solutions at Panasonic.
In addition to LT, MT and ambient-temperature lockers, Panasonic Connect also includes heated compartments for hot food. This feature makes it suitable for restaurants offering takeaway services, he added.
The indoor model of the lockers is suitable for ambient temperatures of 5 to 40°C (41 to 104°F), while the outdoor version, with a canopy and different housing and coating, can withstand ambient temperatures of -20°C (-4°F) to 40°C.
As well as having customers in Europe, Panasonic has also installed some of its refrigerated lockers in Australia, Mexico and Singapore, with plans to expand into new countries in the future, said Osmanovic.
According to Juha Kauppinen, Sales Manager at CoolCenter, the lockers market in Finland is quite saturated, with most supermarkets already having refrigerated lockers for click-and-collect.
To meet this demand, the company launched its refrigerated indoor lockers for supermarkets in 2018 and has since developed an extensive range of products for commercial and residential applications.
CoolCenter’s CoolCollect MOD8 lockers comes in a plug-in version using R290 or a remote version using CO2 (R744) and includes compartments for LT of -20 to -18°C (0.4°F) and MT of 2 to 6°C (35.6 to 46.4°F).
The company also manufactures CoolLocker – isobutane (R600a)-based “individual cold storage” for offices, canteens and even prisons – and CoolCellar – R290-based refrigerated lockers that offer a smaller and more efficient alternative to the cold storage facilities traditionally found in the basements of Finland’s apartment buildings, explained Kauppinen.
CoolCenter has installed around 150 units to date, the majority of which are in Finland. With some sales in Sweden and Spain, the company is looking to increase its international presence to meet the growing demand for the product, he added.
Originally producing smart mailboxes for office buildings and apartment complexes, my eSafe has partnered with Creative Cooling, a Belgian manufacturer of R290 display cabinets, to create a refrigerated version of its product, which was launched at EuroShop.
Modular in design, the lockers – which are suitable for indoor locations only – include chilled and ambient compartments, with each refrigerated module having its own R290 refrigeration unit, explained Jan Vandevelde, Business Development Manager at my eSafe.
The lockers will be ready for sale from May, with some software updates currently being finalized, he said. The company currently has three units in production and anticipated several orders following the trade show last month.
ES Systems K
First presented three years ago, ES System K’s R290-based CoolBox lockers – which include LT and MT chambers – can be found in a chain of supermarkets in Milan, as well as a butcher shop in Sicily. According to Kacper Karoń, Junior Consultant at the company, there is growing interest in the product as click-and-collect becomes more popular.