Fifty years ago, the main motivation behind buying a fridge was to keep food fresh for as long as possible but today consumers are more concerned about space, health standards, energy efficiency and the eco-friendliness of the appliance.
As the needs of consumers have changed, manufacturers have had to adapt and come up with innovative ways of keeping food fresh while meeting consumer needs. There are three main trends, which have played a major role in refrigerator technology.
- Energy efficiency
- Environmental considerations
- Food safety and hygiene
These trends have manifested differently in different parts of the world, meaning manufacturers have had to tailor their products for specific markets.
In China, for example, the last five years have seen a major shift towards energy efficient refrigerators. In 2000, 70% of Chinese households owned refrigerators, which accounted for half of residential consumption on their own at a time when the country's reliance on coal to supply energy was reaching alarming levels. Today Chinese consumers are only interested in appliances, which do not exacerbate the chances of possible resource exhaustion.
In Europe, environmental concerns have grown to become an equally important consideration for consumers. This includes a move to increased energy efficiency but attention is also being paid to the materials being used in construction, the recyclability of the products, the eco-friendly aspects of manufacturing and even the ability of the products to prolong food life to avoid unnecessary wastage.Food safety
Both Europe and the US have been the driving force behind a move to increased food safety leading to more and more consumers asking questions about the hygiene standards of the products they purchase. In the 2012 Food and Health Survey, which was commissioned by the Food Information Council Foundation, 85% of respondents said they had spent some time thinking about the safety of food in their homes. According to the survey, Americans are looking for assurances that their food is healthy, fresh and free from harmful substances - the humble fridge is paving the way.
Instead of setting the trend, manufacturers are now responsible for making sure their products keep up with consumers.
In Australia, LG recently commissioned Pure Profile to do research into what goes on in Australian households when it comes to refrigerators. The nationwide survey found that over half of the respondents opened their main fridge door over 30 times a day - all in the search for something to eat.
The main reason for this, they found, was that the average Australian keeps a lot of food in the fridge, which eventually leads to organisational problems and often to forgetting what food is in the fridge - 40% of respondents admitted to this.
The result was a fine-tuned set of goals, in terms of refrigerator organisation designs for models being sold in Australia - a country that spends US $4 billion on discarded food annually. An example is the company's Door-in-Door feature on the latest French door refrigerators. The feature helps to eliminate the energy loss caused when people stand in front of their fridge with the main door open while they search for food.
It has also developed Inverter Linear Compressor technology, which makes its models more energy efficient. The technology oversees how much cooling power is being utilised at any one time, reduces the amount of internal friction and eliminates the need for a more wasteful reciprocal drive system.
Its Hygiene Fresh filter uses a four-stage filtration configuration to remove or render inert 99.99% of the harmful substances that make their way into the refrigerators interior. Further airflow controls ensure an even temperature throughout the fridge keeping food fresh no matter where it is kept.
In the future, owners of the company's fridges will be able to take advantage of smart-grid capability built into the latest fridges. Smart Grid services, once online, will allow fridge owners to take advantage of energy rates when they are at their cheapest by scheduling the refrigerator's more consumption-heavy tasks to coincide with periods of the day when rates drop.
The advances in technology, which today sets the modern refrigerator apart from its predecessor, are the result of growing consumer knowledge. Fridges irrespective of size, colour or shape are indispensable. As the world changes refrigerators will continue to change with it - shaped by the people who buy them.