Vending machines continue to boost Japanese market for natural refrigerants

By team, Jul 12, 2016, 09:13 3 minute reading

With over 1.35 million Japanese beverage vending machines using CO2 or hydrocarbons from a potential total of 2.5 million, new data identifies natural refrigerants in vending machines as a key area for continued natural refrigerant growth in Japan.

The GUIDE Japan 2016, published on 28 June, reveals that Japan’s light commercial refrigeration market is dominated by beverage vending machines. With Japan boasting more vending machines per capita than any other country in the world, the use of natural refrigerants in these systems has a significant impact on the overall market for natural refrigerants in Japan.

Currently 1.35 million Japanese beverage vending machines use either hydrocarbons or CO2 to keep drinks cool. There are a total of 2.5 million beverage vending machines in Japan, meaning natural refrigerants make up over 50% of the market.

The growth of CO2 is reflected in the Coca-Cola Company’s decision to shift to CO2-based vending machines in 2009, after having begun testing the equipment in 2000. Use of R600a vending machines in Japan also remains strong, with roughly nine companies deciding to use hydrocarbons in their vending machines.

With the Coca-Cola Company – which has the largest market share in the industry – on track to convert nearly one million vending machines to CO2 by 2020, the market will continue to prosper.

Natural refrigerant-based plug-in units on the rise

Alongside steadily growing use of CO2 transcritical systems in supermarkets, the use of natural refrigerants in smaller plug-in supermarket units is also an emerging trend in Japan.

The Japanese market for hydrocarbon-based self-contained units has typically been non-existent, with concerns over flammability representing a clear barrier to potentially huge market penetration. This lack of growth is rather puzzling given that the use of R600a is seen as standard in Japan for domestic refrigeration – and given that hydrocarbons are commonly used in beverage vending machines.

However, with self-contained freezers and cooling cabinets having used hydrocarbons in Europe for over ten years, these lessons are steadily beginning to filter through to Japan, with both Chinese and European manufacturers entering the Japanese market. The availability of funding provided by the Ministry of Environment for the use of hydrocarbon-based cooling equipment in supermarkets has allowed the market to grow over the past twelve months, with 150 hydrocarbon-based self-contained units currently in operation in Japan.

Union, a small supermarket chain that received subsidies to implement R290 plug-in units in ten stores in 2015, is a key driver of this. Save-On is another prominent supermarket investigating the use of R290 plug-in units; it is looking to increase the number of stores boasting R290 units by 20-30 every year.

Policy drivers for natural refrigerants

Japan’s Top Runner Programme seeks to encourage companies to target the highest energy efficiency possible in beverage vending machines. Companies that meet specified targets are given the Top Runner label.

From 2000-2005, the Top Runner Programme delivered energy efficiency improvements of approximately 37.3% for vending machines for canned and bottled beverages. From 2005-2012, efficiency was improved by about 48.8% compared to 2005.

To help companies make the shift towards eco-friendly goods and services, the Japanese Ministry of Environment actively facilitates both the supply of eco-friendly technologies and demand for them through its own internal purchasing. This has had a direct impact on the installation of beverage vending machines, with public institutions purchasing energy-efficient, natural refrigerant-based units.

About the GUIDE Japan

‘GUIDE to Natural Refrigerants in Japan – State of the Industry 2016’ is the most recent addition to shecco’s GUIDE series, this time focusing on the key market, technology and policy trends for natural refrigerants in Japan.

The GUIDE to Natural Refrigerants in Japan is now available to download for free at and

By team (@r744)

Jul 12, 2016, 09:13

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