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SMTS 2013: Lawson plans to introduce 100+ stores with CO2 in 2013 (Part 1)

26 February 2013

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More than 84,000 visitors came to Tokyo Big Sight last week for the annual leading international trade show targeting supermarket buyers. R744.com attended Supermarket Trade Show 2013 to report on the latest developments in the commercial refrigeration market in Japan. In this article, R744.com presents insights from leading retailer Lawson about plans to introduce CO2 refrigeration to 100+ stores throughout Japan in 2013. + VIDEO
 
From the 13 – 15 February, the East Hall of Tokyo Big Sight hosted the 47th Supermarket Trade Show 2013 (SMTS 2013), organised by the New Supermarket Association of Japan (NSAJ). R744.com talked to several manufacturers and end users to get a feel for what changes are coming to the market in near future.
 
Lawson aiming to become world number one
 
At the SMTS 2013, R744.com spoke with Lawson’s Director, branch office support headquarters, Shinichirou Uto. According to Uto, by the end of 2012, Lawson had 75 stores with CO2 transcritical refrigeration and plans to increase this number by another 100 in 2013. The plan to introduce the R744 technology is bigger number of stores is more than reasonable. According to Uto, Lawson achieved 23% energy savings with CO2 freezers over a conventional R404A system. By 2015, CO2 refrigeration is expected to become a standard in all new Lawson’s stores. 
 
On several occasions, Uto has been very open about his personal wish to make Japan among one of the world leaders when it comes to having the largest number of CO2 stores.
 

 
 
At the recent symposium “Progress towards F-gas free future” organised by the Japanese NPO Kiko Network, Uto gave a presentation outlining Lawson’s strategy in more detail. 
 
Learning from European experience with CO2
 
Over the last couple of years, Lawson has been actively following the regulation and market developments regarding CO2 commercial refrigeration in Europe. In 2012 Lawson visited supermarkets that introduced CO2 refrigeration in France (Carrefour store in Lyon) and Germany (Aldi Süd in Munchen) to learn from their experiences.
 
Close partnership with Panasonic was formed to address some of the barriers to the introduction of CO2 refrigeration systems. Data from 75 stores is being collected and analysed to prove the efficiency gains across Japan. System cost is still approximately 50% higher than conventional systems. 
 
Lawson would welcome closer cooperation between manufacturers and a standardisation of systems leading to higher production volumes and lower prices. Installation and maintenance of CO2 systems is also problematic in areas that suffer a lack of a qualified workforce. According to Uto, it is necessary to put in place the right incentives and to increase awareness about environmental damage caused by leakage of F-gas refrigerants.
 
Japanese market at a crossroads is the clear signal from SMTS
 
According to the exhibitors R744.com spoke to, this year’s SMTS was larger than that in previous years and had a greater focus on commercial refrigeration solutions for supermarkets and convenience stores. The fast growing presence of CO2 solutions for commercial refrigeration was symbolised by a the exhibition of a complete line up of CO2 transcritical systems from 2 to 20HP at the Panasonic booth, placed right next to the main entrance to the exhibition hall. Details about the Panasonic booth will be presented in Part 2 of R744.com’s SMTS reporting.
 
Environmentally friendly commercial refrigeration is the hot topic in Japan. 
End users are looking for an efficient and cost effective solution to help them decrease the carbon footprint of their main business. 
 
However, Panasonic demonstrated their CO2 based commercial refrigeration, other companies such as Daikin exhibited their ‘eco solution’ technology using R410A refrigerant. Which of the two technologies will take a bigger market share in next 2-5 years is hard to tell, but the latest activities of major retailer Lawson indicate that Japanese market might well be getting ready to catch up with European leading countries in the number of CO2 stores.

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