Purpose: While pursuing energy management, firms simultaneously strive to boost sales as a path towards economic performance. Also, the literature suggests that family firms exhibit greater environmental commitment than their non-family counterparts. To examine these contentions, this review espouses contingency theory to interrogate the correlations of (1) energy consumption targets, (2) energy efficiency enhancing measures, (3) energy consumption monitoring and (4) the domestic sales performance of small family firms in Turkey's food sector. Design/methodology/approach: Data were sourced from the World Bank Enterprise Survey. A sample of 137 family firms in food production, processing and retail was analysed using non-linear structural equation modelling. Path coefficients were determined to estimate the extent to which energy management practices predict domestic sales. Findings: The path analysis revealed that although energy consumption targets do not directly increase sales performance, they stimulate firms' energy efficiency enhancement measures and energy consumption monitoring to produce this effect by 21%. Research limitations/implications: The contingency lens espoused leaves room to capture further antecedents in small family food firms' technical, managerial, ownership, operational and architectural configuration that may also interact with or predict the propensity for energy management. Practical implications: For practitioners, the inherent findings demonstrate that there are firm-specific material benefits arising from adopting energy management practices. And, although small firms such as family food businesses may have low energy intensities, they can improve their sales performance by setting energy targets, installing energy efficiency enhancing measures and embarking on energy consumption monitoring. Social implications: Public stakeholders in Turkey such as the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, the General Directorate of Energy Affairs and affiliate institutions can reflect on these findings to develop a coherent national energy management policy for small firms. Such initiatives are especially relevant to Turkey and its ambitions to join the EU which requires member states to set up a national energy efficiency action plan. Originality/value: This inquiry is one of the first to examine energy management in the food sector at the family firm level through the contingency lens. Theoretically, the results draw attention and shed new light on disparate energy management practices and their discrete yet substantial contribution to sales performance.