The sun has started shining, summer is on its way and for foodservice operators that only means one thing: demand for chilled drinks is set to go through the roof. As any operator that has seen its profits from this area grow over the years knows, if you are going to make the most of it then you need a good ice machine.
Fortunately, there is a raft of hardware on the market that caters to this need and new developments in technology, along with the competitive nature of the sector, mean that operators can get hold of some impressive kit at respectable prices.
But they need to know what they are looking for and those that make their decisions solely based on price could end up disappointed.
“With the freedom of price comparison now made readily available via the internet, customers have to be aware of what they are potentially purchasing,” advises Julian Lambert, sales director at Maidaid Halcyon. “In our experience, low-cost options are always available but the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ is as true today as it has always been. Study your potential supplier as much as the product, as you will need to be certain that strong product support is available for the life of the equipment.”
The manufacturer, which has introduced a range of Slim modular ice machines that are only 560mm wide but produce between 154 and 225kgs per day of cube ice, believes there is a world of difference between entry level and more advanced ice machines on the market.
“What a customer may overlook is the cost associated with building a quality product. Manufactures will incur considerable costs in the design, prototyping and field trial studies associated with bringing a quality product to market,” notes Lambert. He adds that a lack of awareness over what type of ice is best for different applications is an issue for the market and something that Maidaid Halcyon is looking to address by publishing a guide to ice types and their usage.
Classeq brand, Ice-o-Matic, is another firm which feels there is not enough awareness of the features unique to each pricepoint. “The differentiation between entry level and high level ice machines is not crystal clear within the market place,” says Ice-O-Matic’s UK sales director, Nick Burridge. “High-quality ice makers do not have to come with a high price tag. Ice machines made from top-quality, corrosion-resistant stainless steel, also featuring insulated bin doors and ice storage bins for example, can still be purchased easily without paying through the nose.”
According to Burridge, space saving must be taken into consideration when specifying an ice maker. “All good ice-makers should have a well-balanced ratio between production and storage capacity, alongside reduced outer dimensions, allowing for built-in installations,” he explains.
“Additionally, front air louvers will assure appropriate airflow in critical install requirements. Choosing an ice maker with front panel-installed thermostatic controls, for ice cube size and storage bin ice level sensing, allows for an easily accessible, timely and simple adjustment to the key working parameters of the machine.”
Additionally, insulated ice maker bin doors and ice storage bins will minimise air condensation and water formation on equipment surfaces, not to mention save on energy and therefore operators’ bottom-line.
Andy Norton, UK service manager at Hoshizaki, says that operators should take both the sales price and the lifecycle cost of an ice machine into account when exploring the options available to them. “There are many entry level, low cost machines available but the key factors like guaranteed performance, reliability, hygiene and longevity might not be apparent,” he suggests. “There are indications that a lot more customers are now looking at the overall cost and are prepared to pay a little more for the reassurance that a good machine can provide.”
Norton believes that another deciding factor is green refrigerant. “When Hoshizaki launched its Emerald Class hydrocarbon ice maker range at the end of 2015, we wanted to attract the widest possible market so priced our Emerald Class IM cube machines lower than our non-HC machines to encourage early sales.”
Hoshizaki IM ice makers utilise a system that has an automatic rinse cycle. After every new batch of ice, the water reservoir will drain and refill with fresh water. The system comes with a magnetic water pump that has no direct coupling, designed to prevent any leakage. The range is electronically controlled so the ice making process is optimised under varying circumstances without the need for physical adjustments.
Over at Project Distribution (Prodis), national accounts manager, Darren Mairs, feels that the trend for smaller sized ice makers is predominantly headed up by mid-range machines. “This is why we negotiated with a key European supplier to launch our C-Series ice makers to deliver a reliable mid-range icemaker,” he reveals. “The larger self-contained and modular ice makers tend to be purchased by a more discerning customer that demands high quality and tends to choose higher-end machines like our Icematic range.”
The differentiation between entry level and high level ice machines is not crystal clear within the market place”
Mairs believes that the most overlooked detail when specifying an ice machine is the storage bin size on integral ice makers. “A 20kg production ice maker with only a 4kg storage bin may work in environments where a small amount of ice is required throughout the day, but for a pub or bar which needs to fill ice buckets at the start of the day there will only ever be 4kg of ice available. An ideal storage capacity is around a third to half of the production value per 24 hours to always ensure that there is a good amount of ice available at the start of a service session.
Another important consideration, according to experts, is production method. Spray production ice makers produce crystal clear hard ice cubes but need to be fitted with water treatment units, especially in hard water areas, as spray jets and water pumps are susceptible to limescale build-up.
Paddle production ice machines are considered more reliable in hard water areas because they do not use water pumps or spray jets, but still require water treatment to deliver a good quality ice cube.
Meanwhile, DC Warewashing & Icemaking Systems director, Bob Wood, surmises that there has been a distinct trend in recent years in the amount of low grade ice making systems on the market, usually being offered at cheaper rates. “Lower prices can be seductive but often prove to be a false economy. Buyers should ensure that they compare like-for-like in terms of overall quality and value-for-money,” he explains.
Wood emphasises that DC’s machines are made using catering-grade stainless steel for strength and hygiene while the insulated ice-storage bin is made using anti-bacterial plastic. All materials comply with FDA regulations (Food and Drug Administration) and are IPX3 rated to protect against liquid ingress.
He remarks: “There are significant differences in the various types of ice making machines and systems on the market in terms of type of ice, self-contained or modular units, volume of ice required, and the grade and quality of materials used in the manufacture and in energy and water consumption.
“Ice makers use more water than just the water contained in the ice — in fact a typical icemaker uses two to four times more water than the volume needed to make the ice. If you’re looking for energy efficiencies and savings, choose an air-cooled icemaker over a water-cooled system.”
An ideal storage capacity is around a third to half of the production value per 24 hours to always ensure that there is a good amount of ice available at the start of a service session”
Elsewhere, at Scotsman supplier, Hubbard Systems, commercial director, Simon Aspin, notes that a crucial differentiator between appliances is not just the specification of the product, but in how it is supported. He says that Hubbard supports Scotsman products “very heavily”, pointing out that it will carry out site surveys, offers a technical support phone hotline and stocks a large and comprehensive range of machines and spares.
Aspin says there are clear benefits to dealing with a quality brand that provides reliable after-sales support. “What you don’t want is an ice maker that breaks down and then can’t be fixed because there are no spare parts available,” he says. “Also, look for machines that are easy to clean and maintain on a day-to-day basis.”
Hubbard Systems recently launched the new Scotsman MXG range of modular machines, the latest to make the thimble-shaped Scotsman supercube. Aspin suggests that operators should always be looking at ice machines with the type of ice they want to offer in mind.
“For example, gourmet supercubes would be suitable for drinks presentation, because they look great and last a long time. But they’re not so good with blended drinks because they are so hard, they damage blender blades and are noisy. For that you need dice, superdice or nugget ice.”
FEM, which distributes Manitowoc ice makers, says that many of the old barriers to ice machine purchases have been removed. “If space is an issue, look for front venting ice machines as these will require little or no top or side clearance and can be quickly and easily installed,” comments marketing and sales manager, Mark Hogan. “This means they can be slid into the tightest spaces and set to work pretty much right away.
“Models that work in high ambient temperatures, up to 43°C, ensure the customer’s ice supply won’t run out when the heat is on. Ice machines with simple controls and straightforward maintenance are always popular with operators. For instance, Manitowoc’s ‘Tool-Free Foodzone’ means day-to-day maintenance is easy. And models with intelligent diagnostics systems continually monitor the machine to keep it working efficiently and reliably.”
Foodservice operators that specify the right ice machine to suit their business focus can rest assured that they will make it through the peak summer months without facing an equipment meltdown.
Queen’s award for Hoshizaki UK’s ice machine factory
Hoshizaki Europe has been granted the ‘Queen’s Award for Enterprise: International Trade 2016’ in recognition of its business growth and exports to the European, North American and Asian markets. The company offers Japanese designed and engineered products manufactured in the UK.
The brand’s Telford factory, which was established in 1994, is now responsible for producing 80% of the Hoshizaki ice machines that are sold in Europe. Its success is attributed to its focus on R&D, which has seen the company develop products to suit a variety of consumer budgets, and the pursuit of a compelling product diversification strategy.
Haydn Humphreys, Hoshizaki Europe’s finance director, said: “We have what we believe to be a challenging but achievable vision to manufacture the full Hoshizaki ice machine range in the UK and for the whole range to be developed by 2020 using environmentally-friendly hydrocarbons. While being part of a global business, we firmly believe in the experience, capacity and capability of a locally-sourced workforce to manufacture products that are exported to European, North American and Asian markets, an achievement in which we can all take a great deal of pride.”