Equipment Opportunities

Highlights from the 2011 NAFEM Show

By  Abbie Westra, Editor-in-Chief, Convenience Store Products

Every other year, the community of foodservice equipment manufacturers gathers to share the latest innovations with industry dealers, distributors and operators. This year's North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers (NAFEM) Show, held Feb. 10-12 in Orlando, reflected an industry ready to leave the recession with new technologies to make doing business easier and more profitable.

Among the trends seen on the show floor were technology that reduces equipment maintenance and downtime, green as a given, and lots of smoothies.

[image-nocss]Reducing Downtime
In a continual effort to reduce operating costs, manufacturers are enhancing equipment technology with on-board computers that offer real-time and stored data and "talk" with an operator whether he or she is on-site or away from the store.

Manitowoc Foodservice, New Port Richey, Fla., unveiled its new Indigo line of ice machines. Touting what the company calls "intelligent diagnostics," the machines offer alerts, schedule ice production and monitor energy and water consumption. Customizable ice-making scheduling allows operators to plan production for peak and off-peak hours.

"This is the best machine we have ever created," Larry Bryce, executive vice president of refrigeration solutions for Manitowoc, said in a press conference unveiling Indigo.

Meanwhile, water quality -- and what it does to machines -- continues to vex equipment manufacturers. Hobart Corp., Troy, Ohio, has responded to upcoming changes in EPA water quality standards with its new WS-55 water softener with hollow carbon filter system.

As water-quality standards are increased, municipalities are turning to chloramines, an organic compound of chlorine and ammonia that, when heated, causes stainless steel to pit, rust and turn gray. This system from Hobart softens water and reduces chloramines, creating a virtually scale-free environment and eliminating chlorine, sediment, off tastes and odors and other chemical byproducts.

Green as a Given
Quiz manufacturers and operators alike, and they'll tell you eco-friendly equipment is no longer nice-to-have, it's a given. As state and local rebate programs grow and the savings found in utility bills prove the worth of green equipment, operators are demanding it from their dealer and manufacturer partners. The swath of stickers from Energy Star and similar programs spotted on the show floor further proved green's reach.

Some companies, such as New Albany, Miss.-based Master-Bilt, have even created new positions for employees specializing in green technology. The company was showing off its Master Controller system for walk-in coolers. It features a patented reverse cycle defrost, which eliminates inefficient and unnecessary refrigerant flow during defrost. The technology reduces defrost energy use by up to 80%, according to the company, and defrost time is lessened from 20 to 30 minutes to three to five.

Similarly, at A.J. Antunes & Co.'s booth, the Carol Stream, Ill.-based company was featuring its Chill BEV heat exchanger, which recycles waste water from the cold plate to significantly lower the temperature of incoming fresh water. This helps save water and energy by decreasing cold-plate ice consumption and increasing available ice in the storage bin.

Lotta Smoothies
McDonald's entrance into the specialty-beverage market last year with frappes and smoothies has triggered increased interest in the category from operators and manufacturers. Along with traditional-blender brands such as Vitamix, based in Cleveland, and Hamilton Beach, Southern Pines, N.C., comes a crop of automated and self-serve blenders.

Manitowoc continues to market its Multiplex Blend-in-Cup Beverage System, which is currently being used by McDonald's itself. The machines are available either self-serve or crew-serve, with an on-board nugget ice maker, an icon-based touch-screen control and a multi-product dispenser with two mix stations that can blend up smoothies, frozen lemonades, frappes and dairy products.

Orem, Utah-based Blendtec's "smoothie shop in a box," the System3, allows for eight drink combinations, with automatic detection of up to three drink cup sizes, self-cleaning and sanitation capabilities and a monitor for commercials or other video playback.

F'real, Orinda, Calif., was also at the NAFEM Show, giving out samples of milkshakes and smoothies made by its self-contained, self-serve blend-in-cup units.

The 2013 NAFEM Show will be held Feb. 7-9 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. Visit www.thenafemshow.org for more information.

By Abbie Westra, Editor-in-Chief, Convenience Store Products
View More Articles By Abbie Westra