Merchandising refrigerators and freezers are essential for the display and sale of packaged goods. This makes them invaluable for a variety of commercial businesses, including convenience stores, supermarkets, offices, and any other place where grab-and-go food and beverage options are readily available.

Merchandisers come in many forms—from glass door merchandisers to open air/air curtain merchandisers. This buying guide will walk you through all of the different types of merchandisers available, so you can make the best purchasing decision for your foodservice establishment.

True merchandising refrigerator

Glass Door Merchandisers 

Glass door merchandisers are attractive, eye-catching display refrigerators and freezers that can hold anything from bottled and canned drinks to ice cream. Glass door coolers come in a variety of sizes, including countertop models and single-door, double-door, and triple-door units. Most merchandising refrigerators and freezers have bright lighting and an illuminated top banner where you can advertise brands, sales, and more.

For models with two or more doors, you have an option between swing door and sliding door units. Swing door merchandisers will typically save on energy costs, as they’re less likely to be kept open (many models even come with self-closing doors).

Sliding door models are great when you have narrow space between aisles. Sliding door merchandisers are easy to open; however, the rails that the doors sit on can wear down and allow cool air to leak out over time. This leads to the unit consuming more energy to stay at temperature. 

Glass Door Merchandisers vs. Reach-In Refrigerators

Before we dive into the world of merchandisers, it’s important that we clarify what a merchandising refrigerator can’t do. Merchandising refrigerators are designed to only hold packaged items, such as bottled or canned sodas, or pre-packaged sandwiches. The reason for this is because merchandisers aren’t built to meet the same strict interior holding requirements that reach-in refrigerators do.

glass door merchandiser vs. reach-in refrigerator

A glass door refrigerator may look similar to a merchandiser, but it’s built to hold both closed food products and open food products, such as food pans for buffets, salad bars, etc. If you are trying to store open food products in a merchandiser, not only are you at risk of endangering your customers by holding products at an unsafe temperature, but it could also lead to health-inspection violations and fines.

Specialty Glass Door Merchandisers 

There are a few different specialty merchandisers you might consider, as well. One of these is the wine merchandiser. Wine merchandisers use racks instead of shelves to display bottles of wine. They are designed to hold at a specific temperature range to chill a variety of reds and whites.

Another type of specialty merchandiser is a the floral merchandiser. These units are built to display flower arrangements at a broad range of temperature settings. They use baffled airflow to create an ideal environment to prolong the shelf life of fresh flowers. 

Merchandiser types

Open Air Merchandisers/Air Curtain Merchandisers 

Open air merchandisers—also referred to as air curtain merchandisers—are a fantastic grab-and-go solution, as they allow customers to reach right in and snag whatever they want without having to open a door. The way open display merchandisers work is by using a curtain of cold air (hence the term “air curtain”) that flows over the front of the unit to keep the food inside cold.

Air curtain merchandisers are not designed to cool down warm or room temperature products, but simply to keep cold items cold. That’s why it’s important to make sure foods and drinks are already cold when you stock them in the merchandiser. 

In addition, there are other considerations to make when using an air curtain. It needs to be placed where the airflow won’t be disrupted, so stay away from HVAC vents, fans, and doorways. Also, open air coolers are designed to operate in an environment where temperature and humidity do not exceed 75°F and 55%, respectively. Finally, make sure to keep your open air merchandiser fully stocked with product to improve its efficiency.

Horizontal vs. Vertical Merchandisers 

When shopping for an open air cooler, you’ll see both horizontal and vertical models. Horizontal merchandisers are designed to be waist high, and they’re typically placed in impulse-buying areas. They are popular in bakeries and grocery stores, particularly in the deli. 

Vertical units can be easily placed next to other merchandisers, or they can stand alone. These open display merchandisers are ideal for storing packaged salads, sandwiches, and drinks, and they’re common in cafes, C-stores, and grocery stores.  

Night Covers 

When storing product overnight or during non-operating hours, you can save energy by using a night cover. Night covers go over the front or the top of your air curtain, keeping cool air in and warm air out. If you’re storing product in a public place, such as an airport kiosk, this can also be a great deterrent from potential thievery.  

Refrigerated Bakery Display Cases 

When showcasing pastries, cakes, pies, cookies, and other treats, a refrigerated bakery display case is probably your best option. Bakery cases come in both dry (non-refrigerated) and refrigerated versions. There are also dual zone cases, which have both dry and refrigerated sections for additional flexibility.

Dry cases are perfect for non-perishable foods, such as donuts, scones, and cookies, while refrigerated cases are recommended for items such as pies, cakes, and puddings. Most bakery cases have a curved glass design, which gives them a more stylish presentation. Straight glass models are also available, however.

Dual Service Merchandisers 

Dual service merchandisers combine an open air lower section with an enclosed top section. This allows you to easily serve pastries and other baked goods from the top, while customers grab pre-packaged items from the bottom. The top section can be refrigerated or dry, giving you more flexibility in what you can display. 

refrigerated bakery display case

Own a Bakery?

Learn more about the bakery display cases your business needs in our buying guide!

Merchandising Freezers 

A merchandising freezer is a great option for displaying frozen products like ice cream. Freezer merchandisers resemble chest freezers, but they have glass lids that make it easy for customers to see the products inside. They typically include wire baskets to hold product.

Countertop freezer merchandisers are also available and work perfectly in the impulse-buying areas of your shop. These models are great for displaying items such as ice cream pints, popsicles, and more.  

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