Volume 5 | Issue 8 | Year 2002

There has been no greater discovery, perhaps, than that made by primitive man concerning fire and water. Fire, of course, cooked the food. Water, when frozen, could preserve the food.

This has led to an entire industry that grew as early populations – Hebrews, Greeks, Romans and Egyptians – went to varying degrees to cool and chill food. It was a preference that never died, and by the end of the 17th century, iced liquors and frozen juices were all the rage in certain areas of Europe.

But palatable pleasure paled in 1842 when the yellow-fever epidemic in Florida prompted the invention of an air-cooling apparatus designed to cool the sickrooms. The American physician John Gorrie invented his machine on a basic principle, that of compressing a gas, cooling it by sending it through radiating coils, and then expanding it to lower the temperature further. Giving up his medical practice to engage in experimentation with ice making, he was granted the first U.S. patent for mechanical refrigeration in 1851.

Nearly 100 years later, an inventor who developed the first horizontal bottle cooler founded Beverage-Air. Known first as the Punxsutawney Company, Beverage-Air grew its product line during an expansive growth period in the refrigeration industry, when commercial markets were steadily demanding more and more in the way of cooler systems to display and contain perishable foods and drinks. “Technology-wise, Beverage-Air has traditionally been creative with its customers and has been able to develop new products in line with customer specifications,” comments Chief Global Officer C. Wayne Best. “We never develop a product without receiving input from the customer.”

This philosophy has allowed Beverage-Air to experience steady growth over its 50 years in existence, which has continued following its purchase by Carrier two years ago, a company that, in turn, is part of the global United Technologies Corp. Recalls Best: “Specialty Equipment Cos. bought Beverage-Air in 1986.” Carrier, wanting to become a global refrigeration supplier, in turn, bought the business in 2000. “Until five years ago our primary business was bottling,” Best adds. “Then we pushed into food service.”

Beverage-Air’s acquisition by Carrier has allowed it to tap into a larger base of technical and engineering expertise. It also has allowed the company to further its mission of being the “preferred supplier of quality equipment to the food service, beverage and related industries by being pro-active and innovative employees who are measured by customer satisfaction, company reputation and profitability.” Headquartered in Spartanburg, S.C., with plants in Brookville, Pa., and Honea Path, S.C., Beverage-Air has illustrated this commitment time and again by consistently expanding and improving on its product lines. Designed and manufactured by the company is a vast array of products including refrigerators and freezers, warming cabinets, salad tables, preparation tables, back bar refrigerators, direct draw beer refrigerators and barmobiles, step-in coolers and island and spot merchandisers.

The company also offers a full, four-color graphics service under the Marketeers™ brand which includes manufactured signs for coolers used to sell everything from cold beverages, chilled wine, cold milk, fresh juices and fresh foods. “We also manufacture coolers for companies such as Coke and Pepsi-Cola with specialized graphics,” adds Advertising Coordinator Ryan Blackman. As an example, Beverage-Air supplies Coca-Cola with a specially designed cooler featuring a distinctive, one-of-a-kind curved design, one that you can find positioned at such strategic locations as your downtown Wal-Mart check-out line.

In 1950 the company was the innovator of the air cool beverage system for the horizontal cooler for commercial use in bars and restaurants as an alternative to direct draw systems or keg systems. In 1966, Beverage-Air was the first to design and develop glass door merchandisers and reach-in coolers, taking the industry into a whole new direction.

Still cool after all these years
“We always strive for products that are more energy efficient as well as offer new designs,” explains Blackman. “Beverage-Air has always been considered to be on the cutting edge of refrigeration technology.” Such innovations have included The Breeze, manufactured out of the company’s sophisticated open air curtain technology for clients wanting to make it easier for someone in a store to grab a cold drink. There are no doors to open, which means thirsty customers don’t have to put anything down, or rearrange cumbersome packages, to pick out their favorite cold beverage from the rack.

“You see this in grocery stores every day,” comments Best. “The difference is, in grocery stores, the product has come from the rear of the building, from a walk-in freezer/cooler – you’re stocking out of a cold room.” The Breeze is stocked with warm product at the end of the day; by the time the store opens the next morning, a full cooler of sufficiently chilled beverages awaits customers. Manufactured in two attractive styles – the BZ13 and BZ16 – The Breeze features a contemporary curved design to fit all modern store layouts and a rounded side, shield front that maximizes product display.

Other areas have seen marked innovations as a direct result of Beverage-Air’s research and development efforts. The company’s line of back bar refrigerators features a durable black vinyl laminated steel exterior, stainless steel front and sides and a stainless steel floor and reinforced door breakers. This system also comes with self-closing doors with locks and an interior light, plus a balanced refrigeration system designed for rapid chilling of the product. Recently, Beverage-Air has upgraded this line to offer all models with glass doors.

Beverage-Air’s line of direct draw beer refrigerators and barmobiles have durable black vinyl laminated steel exteriors. Stainless steel tops come with drain line and drip trays, and stainless steel floor and reinforced door breakers are standard. There are self-cleaning doors with locks and an interior light and an optional club top that provides top access to the interior.

In the way of countertop merchandising, Beverage-Air manufactures a variety of models, such as the PC51. Measuring 51 1/2 inches by 20 inches by 25 1/4 inches, this model offers a sleek design, stainless steel exterior and interior operating at 35 to 38 degrees F. This model is ideal for merchandising pies, cakes and pastries. It is available in four model configurations, including the UC 85L, a taller, two-shelf version new this year that measures 18 inches by 22 1/2 inches by 29 inches. All refrigerators utilize ozone friendly R40a refrigerant, while freezers operate with an ozone friendly R404A refrigerant. In addition, all have received public health and safety approval from NSF International.

Got plenty of milk with self-service coolers
Beverage Air produces the most widely used and recognized self-service milk coolers in the industry. Its patented forced air milk coolers are designed to maintain continuous milk temperature at below 38 degrees F during extended use periods in excess of two hours with lid and drop-door open. Air-flow management maintains equal air distribution and keeps the temperature balanced, always ensuring that milk will be cold.

The company’s line of milk coolers includes new models this year, the STF49 and STF58 in white or stainless steel. Each has dual access and features new bumper guards that not only protect the unit from dings when the door folds down but also protect individuals from injury. Hinges are made of heavy-duty stainless steel for longevity and durability.

A cold wall refrigeration system is designed to hold milk cartons between 35-38 degrees F. Standard cabinet exteriors are constructed of heavy-duty white-coated steel and include stainless steel lids, doors with locks, hinges and latches. Foamed-in-place CFC free polyurethane insulation is added for cabinet strength and energy savings.

Cooling trend is here to stay
With a mission to manufacture products that not only correlate to customer needs but also are environmentally responsible, Beverage-Air continues to strive for excellence in its designs. Employing an engineering team that consistently works to evolve its processes and make refrigeration systems more energy-efficient and more rugged, Beverage-Air continues to supply containers for cold drinks worldwide, a pursuit that has taken Best roughly four million miles in the last several years. His path is well worn and extends from plant operations in South Carolina to remote corners of the globe – India and China – where refrigeration is not viewed as a household necessity. “In China, everything is bought fresh every day,” Best says. ‘I’ve spent a lot of time in remote marketplaces” he adds, in an attempt to explain the benefits of in-home and commercial refrigeration.

Having produced one of the best-known brands in commercial refrigeration systems in the last 50 years, Beverage-Air needs no further advertisement than its own machines, still purring along after nearly half-a-century of use. “We have 40- and 50-year-old coolers that are still running,” adds Blackman. “Our pride in what we do and the quality of our equipment is what has made us leaders in the refrigeration industry.”