Ice block business: quenching thirst, enriching investors

• It’s A Goldmine

While the prevailing hot weather may not be conducive, some imaginative businessmen are seeing the positive side of it and utilising the opportunity to make cool money. These investors are producing and selling ice blocks to marketers of cold drinks, bars and restaurants, as well as people organising different social events. Indeed, their services have availed people the privilege of having cool or chilled drinks in any location anytime of the day.

Blessing Okonkwa, an ice block machine maker said the business is a goldmine because of the hot and humid weather. According to him, the weather is prompting people to always demand for cold water, juices, soft drinks or beer in a bid to get refreshed.

“Aside the weather, the increasing demand for ice blocks could be hinged on the epileptic electric supply, which is currently at its lowest ebb. This has made people to resort to using ice blocks to preserve their food and drinks. The situation has also created a booming business opportunity for business people with foresight. When people buy cold water or drinks from the street vendor, he/she has to buy ice blocks to cool such drinks,” he explained.

Jamiu Aromore has been in the cooling business for a decade. He disclosed that the business is capable of bringing huge profit that can turn around the fortune of the producer in a given period.

“I sell 150 ice blocks a day and about 1200 in a week. I sell each for N150 and make between N50, 000 and N60, 000 in a week. And now that electricity supply is irregular and fuel is scarce, I run my generators on diesel and the profit has been rewarding.

“The hot weather has created an advantage for ice block producers because after being under the scorching heat for some time, most people usually ask for cold drinks. Also, nobody enjoys going to a party or hangs out at a bar to take drinks that are not chilled, which is the reason events and relaxation spots are huge sources of demand.

“I sell between 70 and 90 ice blocks a day from 7am till noon. In short, the business is such that buyers get the blocks on or before noon, while the remaining is taken back home to be re-frozen against the next day. The products are such that one cannot store them; they have very short lifespan and must be disposed off before they start melting,” he said.

Comparing the benefits of fridges used at home to that of ice block machines, he explained that the freezer that comes with fridge used at home is too small to take many items, as such ice blocks fill the gap because they freeze food and drinks in a short time.

“Ice blocks are convenient and can be taken to any location, no matter how rural it maybe. This makes it possible for these areas to have cool drinks, as well as run restaurants because drinks and water are easily frozen with or without electricity,” he said.

What does it take a new entrant wanting to venture into the business?

Alfred Abisoye explained that there is no need to have a huge sum of money to start the business. According to him, it is a venture one can undertake alone and from his/her home with start-up capital of between N60, 000 and N80, 000.

“With a capital ranging from N100, 000 to N150, 000, one can get a moderate locally fabricated cooling machine that can freeze between 40 and 50 bags of water within seven to nine hours. Though there are others that can freeze over 100 bags in five hour, it is always good to start small and grow with the business, as this enables one to know the tricks of the business, as well as conserve funds in case one changes his/her mind and decide to discontinue,” he said.

Advising potential investors on how to get the best of a cooling machine, Aremu Yahaya urged intending ice block makers to check out the capacity of a cooling machine, which according to him refers to the number of blocks it can produce at a given time.

“Some machines can produce 20, 50 and over 100 blocks at a time depending on their capacity. Other important things to look out for are the freezing time and the compressor. The length of time it takes a machine to produce ice blocks is also important. Some machines produce ice blocks faster than others, which is as a result of the strength of the compressors. The longer a machine spends producing blocks, the more money the investor spends on fuel and labour; so it is better to get the one that could make blocks in a shorter period. To be able to do this, one has to know the number of the compressors.

“The compressor also affects the hardness of the product and the time taken to produce it. A machine with two 1.5HP (Horse Power) will produce faster than a machine of equal size, but with one 1.5 or 2HP compressor,” he explained.

Are these the only things needed to go into the business? Eduke Imerenini said ‘no’. According to him, one also needs a good generator, preferably one that uses diesel.

“Due to unstable electric power supply in many parts of the country, it is better to get a generator that uses diesel to reduce one’s dependence on electric power. Diesel-powered generators are preferred to petrol-powered ones.

“Aside this, there is the need for a good source of fresh, clean and drinkable water. This is important because buyers may use their blocks to preserve food or drinks, meaning the ice might come in contact with edible products and impure water can contaminate or poison these consumables. Another important factor is the packaging. One has to make sure that the transparent polythene nylon bags used are strong enough to hold water both in its solid and liquid forms,” he said.

It all seems so easy that one might be tempted to believe that the business comes with no challenges. But Nolifat Ashimu, who sells ice blocks said this is not so. She disclosed that the products are perishable and so need to be sold at very busy locations, where people can easily get it. According to her, a producer must have good marketing relations that would enable him/her access big consumers, who could buy the product on time.

“You have to know the quantity you can sell in a day and make sure you finish them because the more you take them back, the more you run at a loss. It is always good to identify one’s regular consumers, those requiring constant supply and then meet their needs. Some of these consumers are event planners, hoteliers or even vendors in the markets, who would be pleased, when their needs are met.

“Also, locating one’s shop along busy roads and streets with high human traffic is another advantage. The strength of the business lies in the quantity produced and sold per day. There is no need producing 100 bags, when actually you can only sell 40 or 60, as the remaining could be likened to waste, even though they are still usable, in the sense that they reduce your profit,” she noted.

Stating that gains in the business are seasonal, Ashimu urged traders to be mindful of the seasons and produce according to demand.

“Gains in the business is seasonal and potential investor has to know this and be prepared for the ups and downs. During rainy season between May and up till October, demand drops because of the change in weather, which comes with the cold. As most people do not like to take cold water or chilled drinks during rainy, this also affects pricing, which often drops to almost half the normal price.”

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