A few years ago, while digging up the M1, workmen dozily pierced the pipeline taking water to Coca-Cola’s biggest factory in Wakefield, Yorkshire.

The fact it’s so big it has its own pipeline is the least noteworthy part of this tale (it even has its own reservoir). But what is really quite jawdropping is this: when workers noticed the drop in pressure, they got on the blower to Yorkshire Water who - petrified at the penalty clauses for failing to supply water to the plant - diverted supplies intended for Wakefield town towards the factory, leaving residents briefly scratching their heads at the dribble coming from their taps.

What’s this got to with chiller cabinets, you scream? Good point. Well, this little nugget illustrates how vast Coca-Cola’s UK operations are. But it could be even bigger, and you don’t become the daddy of soft drinks by sitting on your backside. A lot of bakery, sandwich shop and coffee operators buy their drinks on the ’grey market’, where the drinks are often imported. Coca-Cola UK wants your pound directly, and it’s willing to offer sweeteners in the form of free chiller cabinets.

The firm opened the doors of the biggest drinks bottling plant in the world to members of international association of confectioners, The Richemont Club of Great Britain, for a tour of the plant, which measures an awe-inspiring 17 football pitches. But this was not just a jolly old outing. Sally Jackson, regional account executive for Coke, had a task to convince people why buying a UK-supplied case, at typically £3 more than one imported from, say, Germany, offers good value.

"In the past, customers have looked at making more money from soft drinks by driving down the cost price to make better margins, but you can actually make more money by paying more money per case," she says.

New models of cabinet feature less conspicuous branding. Coca-Cola Enterprises is offering these alongside bespoke meal deals, point-of-sale, marketing leg-ups, such as sports event sponsorships, range advice and tips to increase turnover by tailoring the drinks category to your customers.

At Sparks Bakery in Bradford, which took up the offer, this equated to an extra 611% sales, or a £65,000 boost in turnover for one outlet, claims Jackson. "I think the 600% uplift is a bit ambitious," comments Chris Jones, buyer for 20-shop bakery chain Chatwins, based in Nantwich. "We’ll be on Coca-Cola’s back if our figures don’t match up, and get them to come down and sort it! But we’ll certainly look at this to expand the range."

So what’s the catch? One condition is that you stock 65-80% (depending on chiller size) of Coca-Cola Enterprises product - or 100% if it’s your second unit - whether that’s alongside other drinks, sandwiches or salads. Around 7% of Chatwins’ sales come from soft drinks and crisps, and Jones says the free chiller space would probably go to a smaller local supplier, Britannia Natural Spring Water, which makes niche flavoured waters such as Ginseng & Plum and Hemp with Grapefruit - a successful addition to Chatwins’ range in recent years. He adds: "With the point-of-sale, cabinets and everything Coca-Cola throws in, we’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain, potentially."

Incidentally, residents of Wakefield need have no fear. The factory now gets its water from the river head, so no need to fill the bath.

Europa 100 open-fronted cooler

Height: 2,100mm

Width: 1,010mm

Depth: 930mm

Capacity: 412 x 500ml bottles

Retro single-door cooler

Height: 1,890mm

Width: 495mm

Depth: 664mm

Capacity: 120 X 500ml bottles or 240 X 330ml cans

EasyReach Express small open-fronted cooler

Height: 1,429mm

Width: 654mm

Depth: 710mm

Capacity: 120 X 500ml bottles or 240 X 330ml cans

* all are powered b?y 13-amp sockets

== Key questions to ask your chiller supplier ==

l What energy efficiency savings can the cabinet offer against standard models on the market? If it cannot cut your bills, cut them loose.

l Latest models are pushing energy savings further still - but at a price. These will often pay back in the medium- to long-term. But how quickly?

l What is the chilling range and how quickly can the product be brought down to optimum temperature - is it suitable or will it pack up in a hot bakery?

l Is there the option of external compressors, which will reduce heat and noise going into the shop? How easy is it to clean, service and maintain?

== Claiming energy efficiency tax breaks ==

If you invest in a standalone item that meets the ECA energy criteria, you can claim the full cost of the product and related installation costs. However, if you purchase a piece of equipment that doesn’t qualify, but has components that do, you can only claim for the costs relating to these. The remainder of the equipment will be eligible for a Capital Allowance.

There are two different groups of energy-saving technology that qualify for an ECA:

l Listed products that meet the criteria presented in the Energy Technology Criteria List (ETCL) and are listed on the Energy Technology Product List (ETPL).

l Non-listed products that also meet the ETCL but are not listed on the ETPL.

ECA claims should be submitted as part of your normal corporate or income tax return. It’s important to retain all documents relating to your ECA claim, including invoices, dated screen prints from the ECA website and anything from the company that installs the equipment.

Product lists: [http://www.eca.gov.uk]

Tax info: [http://www.hmrc.gov.uk]

== Chilling out at BIE/Food & Drink World ==

Susan Berry, director Prestige

"Bakers are going more for the Continental look. The units are designed so that they have small compressors, minimum heat output, four shelves that are individually chilled - so you could have two refrigerated levels and two at ambient room temperature for tarts and cakes. They are designed to cope with high ambient shop temperatures - up to 90?F. For anything above that, the shop should really have air-conditioning. The latest product coming through is all designed for low energy consumption - it has to be."

Cameron Scott, retail development executive GlaxoSmithKline

"We do a number of refrigerated solutions. This is our 1.5m dairy deck, which is offered on a free three-year on-loan contract, and it’s a pretty good unit in comparison to people like Coca-Cola. If that was the only chiller in the store, we’d ask for 35% space; the other 65% could go to whomever. We just want a fair share, and we’re not trying to be aggressive. We are playing catch-up to Coke, which has obliterated the market with its 2m dairy deck, but the open dairy deck is the way we see things going, rather than the closed door sort, and we can be flexible on branding."

Alister McLean, managing director Capital Cooling

"There has been massive interest here from the bakery sector. The 2.5m-length version of this Mars cabinet will run on a 13-amp plug - it’s the lowest-cost running cabinet available in the UK today. Nothing has been spared on cost and it is an expensive cabinet to buy. A similar-sized cabinet will cost circa £2,300; the Mars is £3,500. However, it cuts the energy costs right down and pays itself off in no time."