Food and grocery businesses can have very different requirements to other businesses when it comes to materials handling equipment. And in the current climate, with so much pressure on this industry, it is more important than ever that their materials handling equipment is performing optimally.

As well as needing equipment that is reliable enough to see them through busy periods, grocery and food retail companies have other complex needs. Increasing product varieties and quantity of stock, refrigerated and normal storage, and the speed at which products are demanded all influence the type of equipment required.

In this article, we explore the requirements of food and grocery retail businesses and the materials handling solutions best suited to their needs. However, it’s always a good idea to speak to your local Cat forklift dealer as they will help identify the best truck for your specific requirements, as well as additional packages such as maintenance which will ensure the solution keeps you running at all times.

What challenges do food and grocery businesses face?


When working around food, hygiene is of critical importance. That means everything from the way the products are handled, to the way they are stored, needs to be done in a hygienic manner. As a result, food and grocery retail businesses will look for ways to cut down pollution within their warehouses.

The solution

The best solution here is to opt for battery powered materials handling equipment. Battery powered equipment is more environmentally friendly than diesel or LP gas alternatives and produce less pollution which is ideal for environments involving food.

Primarily designed for use indoors, electric lift trucks like the Cat® EP16-20A(C)N range are the perfect choice for many materials handling operations, from lifting goods in and out of racking to moving loads at ground level around a site. Some of our lift trucks also come with a white tyre option, to avoid leaving marks on the warehouse floor.

One of the biggest concerns with electric powered handling equipment, however, is the time it takes to change and charge batteries. And although our electric forklifts are designed to allow longer shift cycles, battery longevity is something that needs to be taken into consideration; particularly for those who operate 24 hours a day.

24/7 operations

With an increasing demand and pressure on the food and grocery retail industry, especially during the circumstances we are currently facing, businesses can often run 24 hours day. As such, it doesn’t leave much time to charge or change batteries if using electric materials handling equipment. But that doesn’t mean electric powered forklifts and other battery powered equipment aren’t an option.

The solution

While conventional batteries can take time to change and charge, Li-ion batteries don’t. Li-ion batteries have longer life spans, lasting on average 3-4 longer than traditional lead batteries. Thanks to higher energy capacity, lower loses and more efficient recovery of current from regenerative braking, li-ion batteries also offer longer runtime than alternatives. That’s ideal for food and grocery retail businesses with 24/7 operations.

At Cat Lift Trucks, we offer li-ion batteries on a range of our equipment, including our EP14-20A(C)NT and EP16-20A(C)N electric forklift trucks, as well as select models in our low-level order picker, stacker, power pallet truck and tow truck ranges.

You can find out more out li-ion batteries, here.

Outdoor to indoor usage

Many food and grocery warehouses require materials handling equipment to be used both indoors, and outside. That’s so operators can go straight from outdoor loading areas to indoor storage without having to switch between equipment. These time saving measures are essential to businesses with high demand.

The solution

While diesel forklifts are more robust and provide the power needed for use outside, they aren’t a great option for indoor usage; particularly in food settings where hygiene is of critical importance. Likewise, while electric forklifts are ideal for indoor usage, they aren’t so great in outdoor settings where cold temperatures and adverse weather conditions can cause damage.

In this instance, for food and grocery retail businesses that utilise both outdoor and indoor space, an LP gas forklift might be a better option. They combine the benefits of both diesel powered and electric forklifts, making them the ideal solution for indoor/outdoor usage.

You can explore our range of LP gas forklifts, here.

Refrigeration and normal warehouse storage

Food and grocery retail businesses are likely to use a combination of refrigerated and normal warehouse storage solutions. And to minimise costs, these businesses might want to invest in materials handling equipment that is suitable for use in both environments.

The solution

Investing in materials handling equipment with cold store cabins is a great solution. These cabins keep workers warm and safe while they are operating in cooler climates and are especially designed for the food and grocery retail industry.

Our reach trucks come with a cold store cabin option that offers high visibility through a crash-proof polycarbonate roof window, while also benefiting from electrically heated windows to prevent misting and condensation. You can find out more about our reach trucks, here. Our NR14-25N(H)2 reach truck with cold store cabin also offers many benefits to operators who may be in and out of refrigerated areas.

Higher racking

An increased demand for a wider portfolio of products has led to many food and grocery retail businesses stocking more varieties of products. As a result, many have had to expand their warehouse storage, often by going upwards, rather than out.

Higher racking brings about more issues for warehouse workers. Having to pick from increased heights of course poses safety issues, but these can be minimised if the right equipment is used.

The solution

The solution here is to invest in safe and efficient high-level order pickers. With our high-level order pickers, you can pick as high as 12.1 metres and lift as much as 1.25 tonnes. The trucks also benefit from many safety features such as the SecurGate side gate system which is used to reduce fall risk at any height and prevents the truck from operating if gates remain open above the platform’s lowest position.

Find the materials handling equipment that is right for your requirements

To find the materials handling equipment that is most suited to your needs, it is best to speak to one of our dealers. Your local dealer will not only specify the best truck for your needs, but also help you with additional packages such as maintenance, to make sure your truck is up and running at all times.

You can find your nearest dealer, here.

Alternatively, you can input your requirements into our lift truck selector to get a better idea of the materials handling equipment we offer that is most suited to your needs.

Cat EP16-20A(C)N Compact electric forklift
cat reach truck nrn_2
warehouse equipment
Man-up turret trucks
NR14-25N(H)2 reach truck
Cat Reach Forklift - Cold Cabin Option
Cat Lift Trucks pallet stacker
Cat Lift Trucks pallet stacker