March 19, 2018 3:15 PM, EDT

Online Grocers to Need More Cold Storage Space

A factory worker labels cases of freshly-squeezed orange juice in a refrigerated warehouse at Florida's Natural Growers plant in Lake Wales, Fla. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg News)

The rise in online grocery sales could bring a need for more industrial cold storage space by the food industry, according to CBRE Research, a commercial real estate services firm.

Online grocery sales are projected to grow to $100 billion by 2024, or 13% of total sales, up from the $19 billion, or 3% of sales, recorded last year, according to data from FMI/Nielsen that CBRE cited.

CBRE noted that the United States has about 3.6 billion cubic feet of food-commodity cold storage capacity covering 180 million square feet of industrial space, and 2 billion cubic feet of capacity covering 300 million square feet of retail space.

Demand for industrial cold storage space near population centers will increase as online grocery sales rise, while the need for cold storage in retail spaces could go flat or decline, CBRE said. The firm estimates that up to 35 million square feet of cold storage for food distribution could be shifted from retail to industrial properties.

States near population centers and major food producers tend to have the most food-commodity cold storage space. California is the leader with 16.5 million square feet of space, or 10 cubic feet per capita, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.