With supermarkets focusing on high-margin areas such as fresh foods, lighting has become an important tool for enhancing product presentation and reinventing the store atmosphere.
"If you're just lighting boxed grocery, there's a different emphasis on lighting than there is in trying to make a stronger and better impact of presentation on your fresh side," said Mark Rohrbach, store development manager at Clemens Markets, a 16-store chain based in Kulpsville, Pa.
Track lighting using metal halide bulbs with high color rendering indexes, used over fresh foods and wines, and fluorescent lighting with a correlated color temperature of 3,500 degrees Kelvin and higher over the store sales floor, are finding their way into more and more new and remodeled stores. Some supermarkets even use large metal halide lighting over the general sales floor.
"Correlated color temperature" is a way the lighting industry describes the appearance of a light source, not the actual temperature of the source, according to Greg Lowe, a lighting industry expert.
A cool light source brings out the blue in the object being lit; a warm light source brings out the red in the object being lit.
A 3,500-degree Kelvin bulb is a good balance between a cool and a warm light source, Lowe explained. A 4,100-degree Kelvin bulb brings out more of the blue end of the color spectrum than a 3,000-degree Kelvin bulb, which would be heavier in the red, he added.
Once the color temperature of a light source is chosen, the next task is to determine the color rendering index of the lamp. For general purposes, CRI is measured on a scale of 0 to 100. A lamp with a higher CRI will make the object being lit appear more vibrant and crisp than a lower CRI lamp.
Several industry sources said choosing the right type of lighting for the best product presentation possible is as important, if not more important, than energy efficiency.
Rohrbach said Clemens found the effect of changing from warm white fluorescent lights to track lighting with a color rendering index of 80 for use over produce to be quite dramatic on customer perception and sales.
"In one store where we had track lighting over produce, customers thought we had changed produce companies," he said. "We changed the presentation and remerchandised, but the combination of remerchandising the area and the track lighting made a big difference. To me that's very dramatic when a customer thinks you've changed and upgraded.
Where we've put track lights, produce sales have been really strong. I can't say as a whole how much we picked up but we have noticed sales increases when it's being used, he added."
Rohrbach said Clemens has implemented track lighting primarily in new stores and in existing stores that are being remodeled. He explained that it's important for the lighting to be combined with remerchandising and remodeling so that old cases and poor merchandising techniques don't get highlighted.
For example, two new stores that opened this spring, in Quakertown, Pa., and Harleysville, Pa., incorporated track lighting over produce and bakery.
H.E. Butt Grocery Co., San Antonio, which started using track lighting over produce two years ago, is currently testing 70-watt metal halide track lighting, rather than standard ambient lights, over beer and wine in one of its new stores in Texas, said Joe Lopez, engineer.
H-E-B plans to test this type of lighting in other stores. Lopez said the goal is to create a better product presentation and lighting contrast, in particular a warmer look in the whole beer and wine area.
Glen's Markets, a 25-store chain based in Gaylord, Mich., just finished adding metal halide track lighting with 70-watt bulbs over its fresh fruits, vegetables and produce, as well as in its deli areas, at a store here that was renovated in June.
"It enhances the food and really brings out the colors," said Gale Parker, vice president of engineering. "It makes the food more appealing to shoppers."
He added that another store in Charlevoix, Mich., is in the process of being remodeled and will incorporate the same type of track lighting over deli and produce areas.
Ken Johnson, director of self development and store planning at Fleming Cos., Oklahoma City, said it will be testing 5,000-degree Kelvin lighting for the general sales area in one store here this fall. Typically, Fleming uses 4,100-degree Kelvin lighting in general sales areas of its stores.
"It's a new technology that we are testing because of its high CRI," Johnson said. "This new 5,000-degree Kelvin lighting has a CRI of 91, which will make all the food look good under its lights."
Johnson explained that the test will show whether the lighting affects customer perception and sales. This is one of the factors determining whether Fleming would want to pay the premium for this lighting.
In addition, Fleming uses metal halide high-intensity discharge (HID) lighting in produce and in some bakery departments in stores in Illinois, Wisconsin and Nebraska, and is looking at implementing more in Supersavers stores in Milwaukee.
"The HID lighting has more lumens per watt," Johnson said. "They give out more lighting per watt of electricity burned, and they last a lot longer than the incandescent lamps, so there is a payback there in better lighting, longer lamp life and lower energy costs. It also enhances the product. It really jumps out."