While annual reach-in and walk-in freezer demand exceeds $5 billion globally, ultracold freezers have historically been a niche product used primarily in hospital, pharmaceutical, scientific research, and university settings. The global COVID-19 vaccination campaign, however, has brought ultracold freezers to the forefront. Pfizer’s vaccine – which is among the first to become available globally – must be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius during both the storage and distribution process. While many major hospitals already have ultracold freezers, most other medical facilities lack such machines, which will hamper vaccination distribution campaigns in many parts of the world.
In response, governments and businesses have placed orders for ultracold freezers, making them a highly sought after item. Ford, for instance, has acquired ultracold freezers to vaccinate its employees. As vaccinations accelerate globally and Pfizer distributes its vaccine, the need for these machines will grow exponentially and make it hard for suppliers to keep up with demand. Recent developments have created immense opportunities for manufacturers such as US-based Thermo Fischer Scientific, which has seen demand for its ultracold freezers surge so much so that it had to make adjustments to its supply chain.
In the near term, the global COVID-19 vaccination campaign will continue to have a profound impact on demand for ultracold models specifically and freezers more broadly. Vaccines similar to the one being developed by Moderna must also be kept frozen, albeit at temperatures that are not quite as cold.
The different storage requirements of these vaccines are likely to force states and vaccine coordinators to be creative in their distribution strategies. For instance, Smithfield Foods – a leading pork producer – has offered to make excess space in its freezers available to store vaccine doses and the need for dry ice is increasing as states such as Ohio use it in its distribution plans. Densely populated areas or locations near some existing stock of ultracold storage freezers will more easily be able to use the Pfizer vaccine. Areas with smaller populations or limited (or no) access to ultracold storage are more likely to prefer the Moderna vaccine, as that will ease some of the delivery burden. This assumes that both vaccines will receive emergency approval, a decision on which the US is still waiting.
For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, including Commercial Refrigeration Equipment and Global Commercial Refrigeration Equipment (coming soon). Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.