“Picture it as a giant Yeti cooler,” says Geoff Gould, describing Leer Inc.’s 5-foot by 9-foot refrigerated transport unit that is widely used by beverage wholesalers. “Put something cold inside it and, because of the insulation between the shell liner and the outside liner, it stays cold,” says Gould, product marketing manager for Leer, Inc., New Lisbon, Wis.
But the operational benefits of the transport refrigeration unit extend further, he adds, because of its built-in refrigeration system, and portability. Typically secured to a trailer, the transport unit is usually towed behind a pickup truck. It can be dropped at a location and plugged into a generator to maintain necessary temperature range. (The unit is designed to maintain an operating temperature of 35 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit.)
“We see these growing in popularity,” says Gould. “Not during Covid, obviously, but at state fairs, music festivals, block parties, tailgating events—anything that involves the consumption of alcohol outside.” (Leer manufactures refrigerated transports and truck bodies that are available in three temperature ranges, plus temperature-controlled units for warehouses. The company has manufacturing plants in New Lisbon and in Iowa.)
For beverage wholesalers considering making use of the refrigerated transport unit, “the number one thing they’ve got to figure out is use case,” Gould says. “Are they using this to drop off at a liquor store or are they using this to drop off at a music festival or other outdoor event?”
As for the advantages of the transport trailer towed behind a pickup truck, Gould explains, “You can show up to an outdoor music festival, drop the cooler full of beer and drive away. And then on the last day, come and pick up your trailer.” Or three trailers.
After it is dropped off, the transport refrigeration unit can be plugged into either an outlet or a generator so that the interior remains cold while people go in and out to grab kegs or cases.
A distributor or wholesaler delivering to convenience stores or liquor stores may not need to do a drop, Gould notes, but for special events — University of Wisconsin Badgers football games, Halloween, Fourth of July and other big days — retailers often don’t have enough space to store kegs, so they have trailers dropped in the parking lot, expanding storage capacity.
Consumers know the drill in such situations. “If you buy a keg, you pick it up from one of these transport trailers in the parking lot,” Gould says.
The refrigerated transport units are useful in densely populated urban environments, Gould continues. “Picture a semi — that’s going to be tough to navigate through a city. But a tow-behind trailer is easier to maneuver.”
Also, a convenience store or liquor store in an urban neighborhood may not have a loading dock or space to accommodate a large semi.
Addressing return on investment, Gould believes beverage wholesalers should consider the quantity and volume of their deliveries
The 5-by-9-foot refrigerated transport unit mounted on a trailer is “for when you don’t need a large box truck, you don’t need a semi-trailer,” Gould says.
Flexibility is a key operational benefit of the units, he says, adding, “Our transport trailers likely lowest cost of entry into refrigerated transports.”
Stephen Bennett is a writer for Beverage Wholesaler.