There is increasingly a broad range of different ice types, and accordingly ice makers, in the catering equipment market. But are dealers aware of what types are best for each application, and can they explain this in detail to end users looking to freshen up their cool equipment? Catering Insight asked ice machine suppliers to dispense their insider views.
At Hoshizaki UK, director of sales and chain accounts, Simon Frost, revealed that the firm’s experience and work across the industry has shown that the knowledge of the different types of ice varies from one dealer to another.
“Those who regularly specify ice machines to end users and in the planning stage of key projects tend to be aware of the variations in ice shapes and sizes and how certain styles of ice are best suited for specific purposes. Those dealers who are less familiar with the various ice types will often recommend a standard ice cube machine for most functions within a catering environment.”
He detailed: “Recent innovation in ice making technology has led to the creation of a whole host of different machines and subsequent styles of ice being produced, from the traditional cubed and flaked ice to the most recent innovations such as our ‘ball ice’. Ball ice is created using the recently launched Hoshizaki IM-65NE-Q, a self-contained under counter ice maker.”
The manufacturer is seeing high demand for this ice type in sites producing a cocktail offering, such as bars, hotels and clubs. Nugget ice is also common within the cocktail environment, as it is suitable for drinks that are required to cool quickly, without dilution.
The manufacturer is passing on its ice maker knowledge by ensuring its sales and support teams spend time talking to and educating its dealer network and end users.
Said Frost: “Sharing our knowledge of ice and educating dealers on what questions to ask to ensure a customer gets the best value from their machine is an essential part of our duty as a manufacturer. Ultimately, it is in the best interest of all parties for the chosen ice machine to deliver the right type and volume of ice for a business.
“We regularly undertake full training sessions on all of our machines, allowing dealers, distributors and operators to understand more about the types and use of ice.”
Elsewhere, Maidaid Halcyon feels that when selecting an ice machine it is imperative to first establish what type of ice is required. Sales director Julian Lambert said: “The lack of awareness as to what type of ice is best for different applications is something that Maidaid Halcyon is aware of and is happy to advise on the types of ice and their usage.
“Entry level ranges of equipment will tend to offer limited sizes and types of ice. Maidaid’s range of automatic ice makers provides various size ice cubes or flakes of extremely high quality.
“Pebble ice is now becoming very popular for many uses with the added advantage of 1litre of water producing 1kg of ice. Granular ice is traditionally used for cocktails and displays and finally flake ice which is superb for displays.”
In order to assist distributors, Maidaid has produced several pieces of literature: product lifestyle brochures that dealers can pass on to their customers, and product guides, which are said to offer all the information required to identify the correct machine for the required use.
Lambert advised: “Firstly, Maidaid recommends finding out what style of ice would best fit the site’s requirements. Selecting a suitable location and ensuring there is sufficient space available is vitally important.
“Make sure the environment does not exceed the air and water temperature limitations for the equipment, and that the necessary utilities are available including the correct voltage electrical supply.
“The last thing that is often forgotten is the space around the machine for service, 15cm minimum left, right, and rear for air-cooled models is recommended. Cellar installs will effect change the ambient temperature throughout the seasons, resulting in a dramatic change to the machine’s performance.”
In DC Warewashing & Icemaking Systems’ director Bob Wood’s opinion, dealers are more aware than ever about differing ice types, as operators learn more too. “End users are not going out to just buy an ice machine anymore, they are going out to buy the ‘ice type’,” he said.
“The question our distributors are coming across more and more is ‘What ice type fits in best with my business?’ We are always informing our distributors that there are many different ice types on the market today that all have their individual uses. Nowadays ice machines are much more highly demanded within any kitchen or bar due to the versatility from the ice it produces.”
He detailed: “‘Hollow’ ice is particularly suited to hard water areas due to its ice manufacturing process, then there is ‘Granular’ ice, similar to crushed ice which is suitable for cocktail bars, cafeterias, fish monger displays and care homes, as it is softer and more chewable for the elderly. Also becoming ever more popular the ‘Flaked’ ice which is produced at sub-zero temperatures suitable for the food industry, processing and packaging meat, fish and dairy products. It’s also used by the medical industry for storing drugs. Then there’s ‘Pyramid’ ice which produces a high volume quick cooling ice cube suitable for bars, nightclubs hotels, supermarkets and hotels and finally the ‘Pebble’ ice machine which has proven popular with Costa Coffee’s ‘Costa Ice’ summer drinks.”
Wood further advised dealers: “When looking to specify any new ice making equipment it pays for dealers to compare the benefits and cost savings offered by the various makes and models into which manufacturers have incorporated the latest energy saving innovations and features.”
Over at Foodservice Equipment Marketing (FEM), which supplies the Manitowoc Ice range to the UK market, the company believes that different ice types are important for different drinks. Commercial director Mark Hogan commented: “As drink trends change, so do ice trends. A key factor is that the larger the ice, the slower the melt, which is important for ensuring that drinks are not diluted.”
He reported that demand has grown significantly for nugget and flake ice makers over the last few years, thanks to the increase in popularity of smoothies and cocktails. “Flake ice is small and soft with a 73% ice to water ratio, making it perfect for blended cocktails, such as daiquiris and margaritas, ensuring a well-blended drink with no chunks of ice,” he said.
The trend towards gin-based drinks has also placed increasing importance on larger ice cubes with a slow melt rate, according to Hogan. “This can be achieved with our larger style gourmet ice cubes, which have a unique octagonal shape, 35 x 35mm, and offer maximum cooling with nearly 100% ice to water ratio, thus avoiding dilution. Gourmet cubes can be produced by the compact Manitowoc Ice Sotto undercounter ice maker.”
But how is FEM ensuring its distributors are aware of all these options? “Our sales team are always on hand to answer any questions,” said Hogan. “We work closely with Manitowoc Ice to provide accurate, up to date information. We have a library of sales literature with information on ice production and trends, including our ‘Which Ice is Right for You Guide’. Our sales team are familiar with the latest ice and foodservice trends and are ready to discuss the best ice machines to match production needs.”
For Uropa Distribution brand Polar Refrigeration, global head, Glenn Roberts believes that dealer knowledge of ice makers has started to improve in the last few years due to the increased sophistication of ice in the bar market.
“This is extremely important as dealers consequently share this expertise with customers from all sectors of the catering industry, which ultimately helps to educate the market in general,” he believes.
“This education is extremely important as different types of ice can bring many benefits to the end user. For example, within healthcare, nugget ice is growing rapidly as operators start to understand the way that it can improve hydration in patients with dysphagia, due to the unique way it melts.
“As in many cases an end user will still simply ask for an ice machine, it is imperative that a dealer can ask the right questions, to add value to the buying process. It is also important that their knowledge is sufficient to highlight the financial benefits that purchasing an ice machine can bring, over buying in pre-made ice.”
Roberts advised: “A key factor that dealers need to be aware of when specifying an ice machine is the capacity of the equipment against the demands of the site. Just because there is a space in which model x will fit, doesn’t mean that model x is necessarily the right choice.
“Understanding the needs of the outlet and ensuring that the machine is installed correctly, cleaning to the manufacturer’s recommendations and employing a regular maintenance schedule will help to ensure that the ice maker is a planned purchase in the same way as a combi oven or range cooker.”
Classeq brand Ice-O-Matic aims to enable distributors to educate end users on the most appropriate ice for their requirements by explaining the key elements of the different types of ice including sizing and which ice is best for which drinks. Options available in the manufacturer’s ice range include shot cubes, full cubes, half cubes, flake ice, nugget ice and the recently-launched large and slow melting grande cube. The manufacturer reported that shot ice is currently the most popular, with half cubes finding favour in higher volume sites.
Marketing manager Adam Lenton detailed: “Some of the more general catering equipment dealers don’t tend to know the ins and outs of the various types of ice available, however the specialist catering equipment dealers definitely know everything there is to know about the different types of ice that is available.
“At the Ice-O-Matic website there is an ‘ice type wizard’ where you can find out quickly what ice is the most appropriate by answering some simple and easy questions (What are you using the ice for? Is the ice being used in alcoholic beverages? etc). There is also a machine size calculator which helps work out which ice machine would be the most appropriate for the type of ice the distributor requires.”
He added: “There is a choice of machine to do pretty much any ice that is required nowadays. However in order to choose the right machine, operators need to consider a few factors – they need to decide what drinks they need the ice for and what type of ice is needed. Then, very importantly, ask the question as to how much ice is going to be needed during the peak operating hours – and this can vary throughout the year and seasonally.”
Over at HTG Trading, the parent company of Hubbard Systems, which supplies the Scotsman range of ice makers to the UK, it believes that dealers are increasingly aware of the differences between ice types as operators are asking for ice for specific purposes.
According to group marketing manager, David Rees: “For example, bottomless drinks require super-fast ice production, for which nugget and cubelet ice cubes are ideal. Blended drinks need ice cubes that are not too hard, which is dice ice territory. For perfect ‘on the rocks’ drinks presentation you need hard, clear ice cubes – which is where gourmet or supercube ice cubes come in. To cope with the variety of specific requirements, Scotsman has machines making nine different ice varieties.”
One of these varieties is the ‘superdice’, which Scotsman developed specifically for blended drinks and ice coffee. This move was prompted by the growing coffee shop market.
Hubbard has published a Guide to Ice Varieties, which is available in print, on request, or as a free download from the Scotsman UK website. Rees commented: “It’s an attractive, handy-sized and brief guide which tells you all you need to know. It’s been very well received by our distributors and their customers.
“We also offer training sessions for distributors, at their sites, where we will come in to talk to them and, if they like, their customers. The training covers the varieties of ice and the specific benefits of different ice cubes.”
He added: “Dealers need to know what the ice is going to be mainly used for – blended drinks, cocktails, on the rocks, etc. They can then advise on the best ice type.”
While Laura Hariani, regional business manager at Foster Refrigerator feels: “Aesthetics are becoming more and more vital when serving beverages, particularly when images and reviews often end up on social media.
“Different types of ice can enhance the look of a drink, but essentially consumers want a quality drink, served to the highest standard. The new Foster FS Series ice makers have been designed with a spray system and patented ice cube shape which sets them apart from other ranges. The spray system produces crystal clear ice cubes, while the patented shape means the ice cubes last longer in cold drinks.”
She cautioned dealers: “During the initial purchasing process, it’s important that buyers know what they want from their ice maker and work with a trusted supplier that can answer any questions they may have about the product.
“As the spotlight is being shone on environmental credentials, buyers are becoming more savvy in their purchasing and are expecting a high quality product that needs little maintenance, while being environmentally sound. The new FS Series ice makers directly address these issues with a number of features, including a highly insulated ice bin that improves efficiency by minimising the loss of cold air, and optimised performance, meaning that the new range uses up to 70% less water than the previous.”