Why Retailers Are Shifting to LED Lighting

Modern solutions impart ambiance, enhance fresh product assortment while reducing energy costs
Photograph: Shutterstock

Supermarkets have long been challenged with creating an enticing atmosphere and successfully showcasing their product assortment while at the same time achieving energy efficiency and cost savings. With older-generation lighting such as fluorescent or halogen bulbs proving to be inefficient, the retail sector has been flooded with modern LED lighting solutions, renowned for imparting ambiance, enhancing fresh product appearance, and drastically reducing spend on energy. Grocers who aren’t on board by now are most certainly missing out on increased sales opportunities.

The Language of Fresh

Let’s say for a moment that retailers are like artists; the store is their canvas and the lighting is their paintbrush, used to highlight vivid colors and textures and ultimately stir up emotion from their customers. To achieve an optimal shopping experience, decor lighting for ambiance and functional lighting showcasing products must both work together. What’s more, the type of functional lighting must vary depending on the store department, particularly throughout the perimeter, because fresh foods such as meat and produce require different lighting hues to look the most appealing.

“Maximizing the profitability of specialty perimeter departments, such as meat and seafood, produce and new-concept, in-store restaurants all require different lighting than the dry-good aisles,” says Bill Plageman, VP of marketing for design and manufacturing lighting company Amerlux, based in Oakland, N.J. “The bakery needs warm-toned lights (like the light of the setting sun) to emphasize the just-out-of-the-oven look of the bread, while meat does better under cool lights that emphasize the red color of the steak while keeping the marbling a crisp white.”

Amerlux’s SPEQ track lights with Fresh Color Chips are specifically designed to accentuate the natural color of fresh foods, delivering a controlled, powerful and clean beam of light on a targeted area ranging from a narrow 8 degrees to a wide flood. With 85% of shoppers saying color accounts for more than half of the factors they consider in purchasing a product, according to the Pantone Color Institute, based in Carlstadt, N.J., displaying fresh foods in the most appetizing light is essential for retailers’ bottom lines. The company’s retail partners include Wakefern, Ahold Delhaize, Supervalu, Wegmans and Whole Foods Market, among others.

“Color is the language of fresh, so it is critical that fresh foods, such as produce and red meat, be seen in the best light,” Plageman says. “LED light showcases the natural color, making grocers’ tomatoes look like they were picked that morning.”

Similarly, Food Concepts Inc., based in Middleton, Wis., recently launched its latest line of bakery merchandising solutions using new LED technology, designed to accommodate trans-lights that maximize photo image appeal. The solutions are available in a number of sizes and features, including a floor standing bakery case, boasting a European-style aesthetic designed to attract customers from a distance; a narrow countertop bakery case features a modern self-serve format designed to drive impulse sales.

“The biggest challenges are getting the lighting balances right and having an attractive decor with accent lighting such as pendant lights,” says Brad Duesler, founder and CEO of Food Concepts. “Different types of displays can also use different colors and intensities of light. It is important to match the right color spectrum with the right food products and balance them together as a light field.”

Enhancing Energy Efficiency

Lighting accounts for 35% of energy use in the U.S., according to the Department of Energy (DOE). In addition to driving sales by enhancing the appearance of fresh products, LED lighting solutions are also proven to drastically reduce retailers’ energy costs while conveying an eco-friendly brand message. According to the DOE, LEDs typically use about 25%-80% less energy than traditional incandescents and can last three to 25 times longer.

PriceRite Marketplace, based in Paterson, N.J., recently made upgrades to three of its Pennsylvania stores. The upgrades include enhanced fresh offerings, a new store design with revitalized store decor and a market-style produce department. Also, new LED lighting enhances the shopping experience and increases energy efficiency.

“Our customers expect us to be more efficient and sustainable while also providing top-quality products, service and shopping experiences,” says Jim Dorey, president of PriceRite. “The modern, efficient LED lighting we provide in our Price Rite Marketplace stores not only helps reduce our environmental footprint but also looks goods and helps customers locate the great deals and fresh produce we offer in-store.”

LEDing Edge Lighting Inc.—which supplies grocery displays for retailers such as Publix, Safeway, Meijer, Walmart, Gelson’s and Stater Bros.—offers a number of LED solutions for produce, baked goods, refrigerators and freezer cases that are specifically designed for energy efficiency and longevity.

leding edge
Photograph courtesy of LEDing Edge

“Some of our lights have been operational in clients that have been operating for over eight years,” says Bob Semerau, marketing and sales manager for Camarillo, Calif.-based LEDing Edge.

The company’s new Mini Orion IB 68 tube light, which the company also calls Seal Bright, is designed to give a higher efficacy with better color rendition; it’s also waterproof, making wash-down and cleanliness easier to maintain. The Mini Orion series is available in three levels of brightness, with its Ultra Bright level featuring 63 LEDs per foot and 5 watts of power usage.

Retailers Can Plug Into Energy-Efficient Training

With a mission to help the grocery sector reduce its environmental footprint, the Manomet Grocery Stewardship Certification (GSC) program and the Retail Learning Institute (RLI) have teamed up to provide sustainability-focused online courses for retailers. The free training program focuses on delivering low- or no-cost operational actions that grocery store employees can take to become more energy- and resource-efficient.

The first course, titled “Top 5 Energy Savers,” highlights five easy operational practices retailers can implement to use energy more efficiently, resulting in cost savings of up to $15,000 per year, according to the organizations.

The GSC program by Manomet, based in Plymouth, Mass., is designed to help food retailers assess and better understand the cost and environmental impacts of current business practices. Founded in 2012, the program has enrolled nearly 900 grocery stores in the U.S. and Canada to help engage employees on operational sustainability strategies as well as review store-level practices and equipment to better increase energy efficiency, boost revenue and lower costs.

“RLI is an important educational resource for the food retail industry,” said Peter Cooke, program manager of the GSC, in a statement. “Becoming more resource- and energy-efficient is critical for grocery stores, and we are honored to be able to share our expertise in this area.”

The GSC and RLI will launch additional courses this year, including “The Top 10 Ways to Help Your Grocery Store Reduce Waste” and a video on how to reduce toxic chemicals and hazardous waste at grocery stores.



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