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How ice machines are starting to evolve in cleanliness and energy efficiency

The ice machine sector is seeing rapid growth due to new energy guidelines and post-pandemic sanitation needs. 

According to a new report from Marketwatch, the value of the commercial ice machine sector in 2021 was US$1,295.2m and is anticipated to reach US$1,896.9m by 2028, growing at a CAGR of 5.6%.

The growth, which correlates with upgrades in the segment’s energy efficiency requirements and enhanced concerns over hygiene, is due to continue, despite the challenges of meeting all needs for both operator and consumer.

Scott Bingham, director of marketing (foodservice and workplace) at Follett Ice told Foodservice Consultants Society International (FCSI): “Energy efficiency has been driven over the past few years by the US Department of Energy creating a new minimum Energy Star standard to sell a machine, so manufacturers are reacting to that. Then there are also refrigerant regulations – the UK and European Union are ahead of the US in terms of more stringent requirements. Sanitation and hygiene have also become more important, though not necessarily due to regulation.”

According to Bingham, there have been “a number of advancements over the years, some of which have been driven by customers and some by regulation, some by manufacturers seeing a need for more energy-efficient machines,” Plus, he pointed out that people want these changes and explained: “There is growing customer desire for environmentally responsible equipment, which means improvements in energy efficiency and changes to refrigerants.”

Brett Daniel FSCI of US consultancy Camacho Associates said: “All manufacturers have made innovations and improvements,” but lamented: “nobody cleans their ice machines like they’re recommended to do, so to be able to combat that from the manufacturing side is a benefit to everyone using that ice. I think there will be more development to enable sanitising and keeping the machines clean without an operator’s input”.

Daniel revealed that, for the hospitality industry, “the biggest problem is that machines are not clean inside, and that is a major issue when we have a virus like Covid-19. Some manufacturers are trying to improve hygiene”.

Bingham explained: “It might sound obvious but the number one thing operators want is a continual supply of ice without interruption. They want to never have to think about ice, knowing it will always be there. That is a foundational need.”

He added that operator’s needs are changing, noting that energy-efficiency and water reduction and sanitation are highly achievable when it comes to ice machines, but not necessarily all at the same time. He explained that they are “competing requirements because greener refrigerants are not always as energy efficient” adding that “there is a balance to be struck there, as we must ensure there is a gain in energy efficiency. Manufacturers have to understand what is most important, so we deliver what our customers value the most. Predictive maintenance, getting ahead of failures – that is where the industry is going”.

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