The global retail cooler market size was valued at USD 1,443.39 million in 2022. It is estimated to reach USD 3,082.67 million by 2031, growing at a CAGR of 8.8% during the forecast period (2023–2031).
A retail cooler is a self-contained or remote-condensing device with a vapor-compression refrigeration system for food and beverage storage. By maintaining products at a constant temperature, a retail cooler helps prevent product contamination. These coolers use evaporators and condensers to maintain a chilly interior storage space. These retail coolers are mostly used in the restaurant sector. These coolers can be used for boating, fishing vacations, road trips, and picnics. Likewise, portable retail coolers provide tremendous convenience when engaging in hobbies like hiking and camping.
In order to keep the contents cool, it is typically filled with ice cubes. Ice packs are sometimes used because they either contain melting water or have a gel that keeps the temperature lower than plain ice for longer. In hotter seasons, they can also be used to ship chilled food or groceries, keeping ice cream from melting in a car. This is advantageous even without the ice, especially if the trip home is lengthy. Some coolers have cup holders built right into the lid.
Increasing Participation in Outdoor Activities, Particularly Among Younger People
The emergence of transformational travel and wellness trips to restore balance and transform the mind, spirit, and body has driven the overall travel market. Moreover, the prominence of outdoor recreational activities such as fishing, camping, and hiking is being witnessed across the globe. Such travel and outdoor recreation trends significantly boost the demand for cool drinks, processed foods, and refrigerated snacks, especially among young individuals. This increases the adoption of retail coolers across most store formats, box coolers, collapsible coolers, ice boxes, and camping coolers for personal use.
According to the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), about half of the U.S. population participated in an outdoor recreation activity at least once in 2018, which included hunting, hiking, camping, fishing, and canoeing. People participating in outdoor activities embarked on an average of 77 outings per person in 2016; new participants comprised 3.3% of the total participants or 4.8 million Americans. Therefore, the rising participation of youth in outdoor activities boosts market growth.
Growing Expansion of Retail Chains Across the Globe
The growing number of hypermarkets, specialty food stores, and supermarkets across the globe has significantly boosted the adoption of retail coolers. Retail coolers are used in hypermarkets and supermarkets to store processed foods and beverages. The square-footage space for groceries continues to expand as hypermarkets and supermarket chains venture into newer markets. For instance, Lidl—a German international discount supermarket chain—entered the U.S. market in 2017, planning to open 150 stores there by the following year.
Additionally, people have been seen to spend more money on food at pubs and restaurants than they do at supermarkets over the past few years. In order to recapture the audience and capitalize on this trend, several supermarkets have been transforming into social hubs that combine function with entertainment. These stores now also encourage community interactions with and for their customers through offerings like in-store wine bars, personalized experiences with build-your-own trail mix bars, or full restaurants. This growing trend is driving the application of retail coolers in these stores on a large scale.
Detrimental Effects of Polystyrene Coolers on the Environment
Polystyrene coolers are perceived negatively as most products made from the material are dumped in landfills. Polystyrene materials also occupy a disproportionate amount of space by volume in a landfill because of their bulky nature. Polystyrene foam is littered more than any other waste product. Household or personal coolers made from polystyrene or Styrofoam products are typically brittle and, thus, tend to break and fragment easily and over a wider area.
In addition, polystyrene manufacturing requires the use of hydrocarbons such as styrene and benzene. These hydrocarbons are discharged into the atmosphere, combining with nitrogen oxides to create dangerous ground-level ozone. Ground-level ozone can impair lung function and lead to numerous respiratory illnesses. These detrimental effects of polystyrene have created a negative perception of the material, which restrains the growth of coolers made from polystyrene.
Growing Adoption of Sustainable Materials
An increasing number of companies strive for innovation in the sustainable space, particularly when choosing materials. For instance, NIKU Farms, a Toronto-based meat delivery service, opted for a new biodegradable and compostable packaging material from KTM Industries for its insulated coolers in 2019. NIKU became the first meat delivery service company to use KTM’s Green Cell Foam in Canada for its farm-to-door meat subscription boxes. Green Cell Foam is a natural, environment-friendly packaging material produced from non-GMO cornstarch, which has proven to match the performance of petroleum-based foams. This material can be produced with 70% less energy and 80% fewer greenhouse pollutants, claims KTM Industries. The material is also backyard compostable, biodegradable, and water-soluble. The retail cooler industry benefits greatly from investments in environmentally friendly materials.
The global retail cooler market is segmented by capacity and distribution channel.
Based on capacity, the global market is divided into below 10 quarts, 11-25 quarts, 26-50 quarts, and above 50 quarts.
The above 50 quarts segment is the most significant contributor to the market and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.7% over the forecast period. Above 50 quarts retail coolers possess higher ice retention capacity, i.e., up to five days, and can have a capacity of 70 quarts. These large-capacity retail coolers are perfect for long road trips, days spent at campsites, and sporting events. Additionally, the product is often equipped with heavy-duty wheels to roll the cooler through tough terrain with the rigged wheels while fully loaded. In weekend camping with more than two people, a 50-60 quarts cooler is ideal for storing all foods and drinks.
26-50 quarts retail coolers are ideal for avid outdoor enthusiasts engaging in weeklong hunts. More often, dedicated hunters spend extended periods in backcountry hunts, particularly in remote areas, and hence opt for retail coolers with a medium capacity. The higher penetration of these retail coolers in the food and hospitality industry to store food, beverages, snacks, meat, and ice for longer drives the product demand. Some of these coolers offer technologically advanced product features, increasing the adoption of these cooler boxes in various industries. For instance, the Magellan Outdoors Ice Box 40 quarts Rolling Cooler is produced from heavy-duty UV-resistant plastic, which helps minimize fading caused by the sun and promotes ongoing use.
Based on distribution channels, the global market is bifurcated into offline and online distribution channels.
The offline segment dominates the global market and is projected to exhibit a CAGR of 6.8% over the forecast period. Most retail coolers are sold globally through offline distribution channels such as distributors, dealers, and retailers. Well-established cooler manufacturers are inclined to sell their products via retail stores to promote their brands and gain a higher profit margin. However, many manufacturers prefer to sell their products primarily through a strong network of distributors and dealers to expand their customer base. These products are widely sold through various retail formats, including shops such as hardware, grocery, sporting goods, and hunting stores. Placing retail coolers on the shelves of supermarkets, hypermarkets, and specialty stores is proven to improve the sales of these products, as many customers visit these places daily. Global retail cooler product sales are also anticipated to increase due to increasing urbanization and the expansion of supermarkets and hypermarkets to reach more consumers.
The online distribution channel is rapidly gaining popularity, even though the offline distribution channel still dominates the sales of retail coolers. The main element boosting the popularity of online channels in the retail cooler industry globally is the expanding internet penetration among the middle-class population, together with the rising use of smartphones and other such devices. Consumers are rapidly shifting toward online modes of purchase with the growing popularity of e-commerce giants such as Amazon, Alibaba, eBay, and JD.com.
Additionally, the prominence of direct-to-consumer retailers that do not require intermediary partners, such as distributors or dealers, drives the market. As a result of the apparent major shift in consumer choice from the offline to the online channel, many cooler manufacturers are choosing direct-to-consumer sales as a means of marketing their goods and maximizing profits.
Based on region, the global retail cooler market is bifurcated into North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Central and South America, and the Middle East and Africa.
North America is the most significant global market shareholder and is anticipated to exhibit a CAGR of 7.31% during the forecast period. The high inclination of people in America towards outdoor recreational activities, short trips, and picnics is fueling the demand for retail coolers. According to the prevailing trends, consumers in the U.S. and Canada prefer to travel short distances with hassle-free planning, and retail coolers are a convenient option. The market is witnessing consistent innovations wherein manufacturers develop lightweight and compact coolers to carry cool beverages and frozen foods. In North America, there are now significantly more people who travel by car throughout the summer, which is increasing the demand for outdoor coolers. Many Americans are turning to off-road activities due to the U.S.'s declining fuel prices. In addition, the necessity of a retail cooler kit has grown as consumers' attitudes toward road trips and adventurous vacations have changed. The ideal options for the job are retail coolers with a capacity of 26 to 50 quarts because they are small, light, and come in soft and hard product varieties.
Europe is estimated to exhibit a CAGR of 6.8% over the forecast period. The demand and preference for alcoholic beverages such as beer and wine during social events or outdoor picnics and trips is high in the region, driving the 28 – 50 quarts coolers that serve the purpose ideally. This drives the need for portable coolers, such as portable thermoelectric coolers, depending upon the budget and purpose of the end-users. Additionally, the availability of a broad range of retail coolers will remain one of the major factors encouraging consumers to purchase the same from offline retailers. This channel also helps consumers physically verify that the production of the product is according to their requirements. However, an increasing number of tech-savvy consumers and working individuals with busy schedules opt to buy coolers through online sales channels due to their convenience, availability of a wide range of products, and free delivery services. Many online retailers also offer discounts and excellent after-sales services, encouraging consumers to shop for retail coolers online.
In Asia-Pacific, the market is expected to register a notable growth pace owing to the rising trend of camping, hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities. Several camping sites, as well as adventure destinations, are being developed at a fast pace in most of the countries in the Asia Pacific, including Thailand, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Australia, and India. For instance, the government of Cambodia has taken steps to promote adventure sports like trekking and mountaineering to draw more tourists to the nation. Furthermore, an interest in glamping has increased among Asian households. These factors will create a positive outlook for camping and outdoor equipment, such as retail coolers, over the forecast period.
In Central and South America, outdoor sports and activities are very well-liked. Camping and glamping services, in particular, have witnessed increased popularity over the past few years. In addition, Coastal spots around Palomino, Colombia's Tatacoa Desert, and Tayrona National Park on the Caribbean coast are the best for glamping. Consumers aged 18–32 tend to be young, ethnically diverse, and active and spend the most on travel experiences. In Latin America, spending on domestic and international travel climbed in 2018 compared to 2017, according to research released by the World Travel & Tourism Council. Major camping destinations in Brazil, including Bahia, Porto Seguro, Pousada, and Santa Clara, are expected to witness robust tourism growth, thereby driving the market in Central and South America.
In the Middle East and Africa, outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, camping, fishing, hunting, and simply strolling the neighborhood are popular among residents. Camping has significantly popularized in the Middle East, which has resulted in growing demand for camping and outdoor equipment. Dubai is foreseen to blend its luxurious city living and tradition of camping by incorporating deluxe and comfortable outdoor facilities. Dubai also offers stays in chic desert trailers, beach camps, and plush mountainside lodgings to make its mark in the glamorous camping trend. Therefore, growing consumer spending on camping and outdoor activities and preference for family glamping will likely propel the demand for retail coolers in the region over the forecast period.
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