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Exclusive interview: Sanden blazing trail in CO2 refrigeration

08 February 2016

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Continually innovating and building strong relations with partners are crucial to business success in Japan’s increasingly competitive natural refrigerants market, Junya Ichikawa, president of Sanden Environmental Products Corp., told R744.com in an exclusive interview ahead of ATMO Asia.
With ATMOsphere Asia returning this week to Tokyo, Japan for the third time, an impressive line-up of expert speakers on policy, market trend and end user issues are preparing to descend upon the Shin-Maru Conference Square on 9-10 February.

Sanden’s goal is “to be the right business partner for companies who want to move out from HFC to low-GWP solutions,” said Ichikawa, arguing that “Sanden is a key manufacturing player in natural refrigerants in Japan”.

The challenge lies in constantly innovating and improving products in order to maintain a leading position in the market. “The Japanese market is quite competitive compared to other countries, which is good, because it makes CO2 technology more attractive to end users,” the Sanden president argued.

Sanden committed to rolling out CO2 technology…worldwide

“Since the launch of our first CO2 vending machine in 2004, we have taken a major commitment to deploy CO2 technology in Japan and overseas,” Ichikawa said. In the Japanese market, he explained, this shift had taken place in three of the company’s core businesses: food and beverage vending and dispensing, retail refrigeration, and household equipment.

In the thermal comfort business, Sanden’s product range exclusively comprises CO2 heat pumps. “We offer a CO2 heat pump for hydronic space heating, called ‘EcoRuno’, which is quite unique in the market. With its patented cascade technology, ‘EcoRuno’ is the only CO2 heat pump that can perform space heating with high energy efficiency in Japan’s northern areas, such as Hokkaido,” Ichikawa said.

‘Huge potential’ for naturals in Japanese convenience stores

Refrigeration in convenience stores (CVS) is a huge market in Japan. At present, Sanden has installed full CO2 systems comprising condensing units and plug-in showcases in around 200 Japanese stores. Sanden has been involved in this sector for three years since becoming the first company to equip a Japanese CVS with a 100% CO2 refrigeration system.

“More and more CVS retailers come to us because they want to stop using HFCs and find viable low-GWP alternatives. It is a huge potential market in Japan. For us, it is very exciting to accompany them in their transition,” said Ichikawa.

Long-term collaboration with the Coca-Cola Company

The Sanden president hailed the firm’s long-term collaboration with the Coca-Cola Company as one of its most well-known success stories. “Since 2004, we have accompanied them in the deployment of CO2 technology, by supplying them with CO2 compressors as well as ready-to-use vending machines, coolers and dispensers,” he said. Sanden also supplies vending machines to several Japanese beverage companies.

Looking to the future, Ichikawa stressed the importance of ensuring greater global recognition of CO2’s potential as a natural refrigerant. With this in mind, Sanden works hard to find new partners to work with – not just to provide them with systems, like it does for the Coca-Cola Company, but also for providing key components.

For more coverage of ATMO Asia, please click here to see our Storify.

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