Ice, ice baby
In the fight to cool down, SA’s heat waves resulted in record ice sales, as well as high demand for fans and air conditioners
All that many South Africans wanted to do in December was lie in front of a fan and drink everything with ice. The heat waves and drought, which sent temperatures skyrocketing to record highs in the summer, especially in the northern parts of the country, created an unprecedented demand for air conditioners, fans, carbonated drinks and bottled water.
Several wholesalers and retailers, such as Makro, Game and Dion Wired, saw record sales over the festive season of fans and air conditioners.
Makro and Dion Wired say they had to order far more fans and air conditioners than usual to restock their shelves.
“We had record sales of premium air conditioners and the number of bulk orders we received, both online and in stores, was remarkable,” said Caroline Brickell, trading stock manager at Dion Wired.
Lerato Ramabaya, brand manager for Coca-Cola’s bottled water division, which includes Valprè and Bonaqua, confirmed that the brands experienced higher sales in comparison with previous summers.
Ice makers had to run around to provide enough frozen relief to stores’ fridges.
“It was by far the best season we have ever had, but it was also one of the most challenging. The hotter it is, the higher the demand for ice, but the harder it becomes for us to make ice,” said George Peters, CEO of Ice4Africa, which supplies ice packs countrywide to retailers such as Pick n Pay, Checkers and Spar.
“If the surrounding temperature is so high, it takes double the amount of time for the ice to freeze. Our machines could on average only work at 40% of their optimal capacity,” said Peters.
He said the thermometers hit 43°C at Ice4Africa’s factory in Florida, Johannesburg.
“By September, we had 1 000 tons of stored ice packs, which we built up over the winter. We knew we could produce up to 40 tons of ice per day and thought we were safe. We realised in November, however, that we were in trouble.”
Additional ice machines were bought, according to Peters, but even that was not enough.
“It was so warm that we could only produce about 20 to 25 tons of ice per day, and most days we were lucky to reach 60% of normal production.”
Peters said ice needed to be stored for three to five days before it was sold because it got a beautiful blue sheen and then also took longer to melt.
“After Christmas, it was the first time in 25 years that we had to pack fresh ice on to trucks just as it came out of the machines.”
He has decided to build an extra storage facility, which can house 500 tons of ice, in preparation for next year. “It is a big investment, but we can’t keep up in such heat. I believe it will benefit us.”
Candice Tootell, manager at WD Ice, said they also usually stored enough stock over the winter to last until after Christmas and even New Year’s Eve.
“Our storage was already empty by December 10. In November, our sales were 22% higher than last year and in December they were 25% higher.”
She said December 16 was their busiest day. They produced 41 tons and still took orders at 7pm.
WD Ice drove an extra 250 tons of ice from Durban and Pretoria to their factory in Johannesburg over the festive season, but even this was not enough.
“We received about 57 tons of orders every day, from the first day of the new year until the rain started.”
She said they received calls from every province, and even Swaziland and Mozambique.
“We had to apply rationing and limit our deliveries to 17 tons per client. Some clients even offered to come and help make the ice. There was just not enough!”
SOLID GOLD Ice4Africa in
Florida, Joburg, had record orders in December