Profitable Sustainability: How Energy Efficiency Is Saving Grocers Dollars

Neha Ghai
July 27, 2023
profit-sustainable grocery-energy efficiency

At a Glance

  • Energy costs account for 15% of a grocery store's budget.
  • The annual energy cost for a supermarket is $200,000, averaging $4 per square foot.
  • Supermarkets emit 1383 metric tons of CO2 each year from energy consumption alone.
  • Achieving sustainability vs. profitability is a key challenge for supermarkets.

In the competitive world of grocery retail, profitability remains a critical focus for grocers. However, striking a delicate balance between profitability and sustainability has become increasingly important. Meeting the demands of environmentally conscious shoppers and reducing CO2 emissions have become integral to running a successful grocery business. For grocers, strategically aligning profitability with sustainability is not just an opportunity but a necessity to meet consumer expectations and remain competitive.

Forward-thinking grocers recognize the significant impact of energy efficiency in optimizing their operations. To achieve their goals, they prioritize various strategies, such as streamlining supply chain management, implementing waste reduction tactics, and emphasizing energy-saving initiatives. However, the key lies in finding practical, cost-effective solutions that promote maximum efficiency and sustainability. This often involves conducting comprehensive audits and making essential changes to existing processes.

One powerful measure is the implementation of energy efficiency programs, which can substantially lighten a grocer's energy load. For example, upgrading to LED lighting can drastically reduce energy consumption while providing superior illumination for the store. Additionally, incorporating dehumidification filters in refrigeration units draws moisture from the air, leading to less frequent compressor use and reduced electricity consumption. Embracing natural refrigerants is another eco-friendly approach that lessens the environmental impact.

The benefits of these measures go beyond cost savings, helping to enhance the overall shopping experience for customers. A well-lit and climate-controlled environment creates a welcoming atmosphere, encouraging customers to spend more time in the store and make additional purchases.

This article explores the critical role of energy efficiency for grocers and highlights the numerous advantages of adopting energy-saving strategies to foster sustainability and profitability simultaneously.

Operating Costs and Slim Margins

The supermarket industry in the United States is undeniably massive, with a staggering number of 63,348 supermarkets across the country according to a research on US food retail industry statistics. This vast number of stores serves the nation's population of 330 million people. In 2021, the annual food retail industry reached an impressive total of $880 billion in sales. However, amidst these substantial sales figures, supermarkets also face high operating costs that can eat into profit margins, averaging around 1.1% in recent years. Energy costs, which account for approximately 15% of a grocery store's budget, represent a significant portion of these expenses.

Energy efficiency adoption allows grocery stores to reduce their energy consumption, resulting in cost savings that directly impact the bottom line. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a supermarket's average annual energy cost is more than $4 per square foot, which amounts to a substantial $200,000 for an average-sized store.

A Dollar Saved Is a Dollar Earned

Energy efficiency presents a unique opportunity for grocery stores to enhance profitability without solely relying on increasing sales. The financial advantages of energy efficiency are considerable, and the long-term benefits outweigh the associated costs. The savings derived from energy efficiency directly contribute to a grocer's financial well-being, effectively bolstering their overall profits. According to another research blog on benefits of energy efficiency it consistently demonstrates that even a small $1 reduction in energy costs is equivalent to and can substantially increase net profit, ranging from $55 to $83 for an average supermarket. Since these stores typically spend well over $200,000 annually on energy, implementing energy-saving measures can result in considerable savings. This makes energy efficiency a crucial consideration for maximizing profits and achieving sustainable business growth for grocery stores.

Environmental Stewardship 

Customers seek out businesses that prioritize sustainability and responsible environmental practices. For grocers, prioritizing energy efficiency is a powerful way to showcase their commitment to sustainability and resonate with environmentally conscious customers. By demonstrating environmental stewardship, grocers can build a positive brand image and reputation within their community, attracting and retaining a loyal customer base.

The environmental impact of grocery stores is significant. Research on impact of climate change on food retail shows that the typical grocery store releases 1,383 metric tons of CO2 annually just from energy use. Additionally, leaked refrigerants contribute another 1,556 metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions. These numbers are equivalent to the emissions of 635 passenger cars. By prioritizing energy efficiency, grocers can actively contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating their overall environmental footprint.

Lowering energy consumption directly translates to reduced carbon dioxide emissions, positively impacting the fight against climate change. By taking responsibility for their environmental impact, grocers align with global sustainability goals and demonstrate their commitment to being responsible environmental stewards. This benefits the environment and resonates with environmentally conscious customers who seek out businesses that prioritize sustainability. Through comprehensive audits and strategic improvements, grocers can position themselves as leaders in sustainability, positively impacting the environment while driving their own success in the grocery industry.

Ergonomic Design: Fueling Customer Loyalty

Energy efficiency initiatives offer benefits beyond cost savings alone. They can enhance the overall shopping experience for customers, attracting and retaining a loyal customer base. Upgrading lighting systems and optimizing HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems create a more pleasant and inviting store experience, making customers feel comfortable and welcome. Well-lit and adequately climate-controlled spaces contribute to a positive shopping environment, encouraging customers to stay longer, explore more products, and make additional purchases.

By implementing efficiency measures and strategic lighting, grocers can boost sales by enhancing the visual appeal of their products. Despite LED lights potentially producing a stronger glare, their compact size allows discreet placement inside the case, ensuring invisibility from the outside. The main goal is strategically positioning the lights to illuminate the visible side of the merchandise. Vertical cases benefit from illuminating the vertical face of the products. In contrast, flat display cases or those requiring leaning in should have LEDs on the upper ridge, directing light downward for optimal impact. This thoughtful use of lighting effectively showcases products, making them more visible and desirable to customers, leading to increased loyalty, satisfaction, and ultimately higher sales and revenue.

Moreover, energy efficiency initiatives strengthen a grocer's brand image and reputation within the community. By demonstrating a commitment to responsible environmental practices, grocers build trust and loyalty among customers, resulting in increased support and positive word-of-mouth referrals.


Energy efficiency initiatives go beyond cost savings; they have a significant impact on the overall shopping experience and customer satisfaction. By prioritizing energy efficiency, grocers can create a welcoming and comfortable environment that attracts and retains loyal customers.

In this article, we explored the importance of energy efficiency for grocers. In the second part of the series, we will delve into the solutions required to achieve energy efficiency in grocery stores.