Tesco has admitted it is more than a year behind schedule on its plans to introduce natural refrigeration systems in its UK store network.

Last summer, former CEO Philip Clarke made a flagship pledge at the Consumer Goods Forum conference, saying Tesco would double the number of UK stores using natural refrigeration by the end of 2013.

At the time, Tesco had 65 stores in the UK that had moved away from HFC refrigerants, and Clarke promised this would rise to at least 130.

However, figures provided by Tesco to The Grocer show it currently has just 115 stores using natural refrigeration systems. It admitted business pressures had meant it had been forced to look again at the pace of the rollout.

“We are continuing to roll out this solution where it is appropriate and effective to do so,” said a Tesco spokesman. “At the same time, we are exploring innovative options, such as harnessing heat reclaim systems, to further improve the viability of natural refrigeration.”

Tesco’s new Wisbech store in Cambridgeshire was the first UK store to be given a CO2 heat reclaim system, which it hopes will bring down the costs of natural refrigeration.

“By leading the way on initiatives such as heat reclaim, we are helping to make natural refrigeration systems both more competitive and more suitable for use in future applications,” the Tesco spokesman added.

“We are constantly looking at the best refrigeration solutions to fit with the demands of our stores.”