This category covers ice plants operated by public utilities and establishments manufacturing artificial ice for sale in the form of blocks or cubes; it excludes makers of dry ice, which are categorized in SIC 2813: Industrial Gases.
312113 (Ice Manufacturing)
Technological advances freed consumers from their long dependence on the harvest of local, naturally occurring sources of ice by permitting first its export and then its manufacture. This production, whether by private companies or by public utilities, was based on developments that also heralded the era of domestic refrigeration, and the ice trays found in most American kitchens became the major rival of commercial ice manufacturers. In terms of volume, however, domestic refrigerators could not compete with ice plants, and manufactured ice has sold well in outlets where goods for parties, receptions, and other events are routinely purchased.
In the early 2000s, ice manufacturers' products ranged from bags of ice cubes in varying quantities to blocks of ice in weights of 10 to 300 pounds. The larger blocks were particularly popular for ice carvings at out-door festivals and banquet buffets.
Much of the industry's annual revenues depend on the weather. The warmer the temperature, the more ice consumers buy. Logically, sales of manufactured ice are highest during the summer months of June, July, and August. Due to the ever-increasing efficiency of icemaking machinery and delivery, the wholesale price of ice has increased only by five cents since the late 1970s, to between 45 cents and 50 cents per pound in the early 2000s.
Purity is a primary issue among ice suppliers. Many ice suppliers have learned to enhance the purity of their product by creating a hole in the center of each cube and then flushing it, rinsing away the sulfur, iron, and other impurities in water that had concentrated there during the formation of the cube. Such purity concerned not only consumers but also businesses that required large quantities of ice to keep food cool and fresh. Despite the convenience and cheapness of ice produced in-house by such businesses, ice-manufacturing specialists had the potential to create a product with greater purity.
Both the continuing quest for purity and a heightened consciousness about ecological issues on the part of consumers made a promising development in the 1990s—the marketing of gourmet ice, as harvested from
glaciers, springs, and other sources pre-dating or little affected by human pollution. This illustrates a return to the very origins of the ice industry, though with the probable addition of innovative packaging this time around.
Since the late 1980s, legislation at various levels of government led to tightened controls on sanitation and an improved standard of quality in the ice industry. Mandated drug testing of truck drivers further regulated the industry.
The value of ice shipments, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, totaled $566.7 million in 2001, up from $515 million in 2000. According to Dun and Bradstreet, 632 establishments (the majority with one to four employees) were engaged in ice manufacturing in the United States as of 2002. Industry sales totaled $394.5 million, reflecting a growth rate of 5.14 percent between 1997 and 2001; growth in 2002 was estimated to be 3.9 percent.
IndustryResearch.com. "The Manufactured Ice Industry." December 2002. Available from http://www.industryresearch.com/consumer_economy/food/manufactured_ice_2002.html .
Pamplin, Claire. "The Cold, Hard Facts." Convenience Store News, 25 September 2001.
U.S. Census Bureau. "Statistics for Industry Groups and Industries: 2000." February 2002. Available from http://www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/m00as-1.pdf .
——. "Value of Shipment for Product Classes: 2001 and Earlier Years." December 2002. Available from http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/m01as-2.pdf .