Iced Coffee, Extruded Ice and the Triple Bottom Line of Sustainability

Sustainability is an important topic and the word itself seems to be everywhere. But, what does sustainability mean? Consider the definition that comes from the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production: “Sustainable Production is the creation of goods and services using processes and systems that are: non-polluting; conserving of energy and natural resources; economically efficient; safe and healthful for workers, communities, and consumers; and, socially and creatively rewarding for all working people.” The elements of this definition fit nicely into a triple bottom line of “people,” “planet,” and “profit.” In order for a sustainable solution to be enduring, each of these elements must be satisfied. Let’s take a look at how iced coffee made with extruded ice can help deliver this triple bottom line of sustainability.
The first “P” of sustainability is “people” and addresses how a product can satisfy people’s needs, both physically and emotionally. Coffee is certainly a beverage that is “socially and creatively rewarding for all working people.” Coffee is not just a refreshment, it is also a social connection, and for many, an absolute necessity for daily life. Increasingly, people are enjoying their coffee as iced coffee, with some estimates of a 25% increase in iced or frozen coffee drinks since 2006. Providing iced coffee not only requires attention to coffee types and brew strengths, it also requires attention to the ice, since ice can comprise up to 50% of an iced coffee drink.
BThe type of ice used for iced coffee can make a significant difference to people in terms of their satisfaction with an iced coffee experience. Studies in the fountain beverage market have shown that people prefer extruded or “chewable” ice by over 2:1 compared to traditional cube-type ice and that people are more likely to go out of their way for beverages that are served with chewable ice. This is especially true across the South and Southwest, which have been dubbed “the Chewbelt” because of the extraordinarily high interest in extruded ice in these regions. Many people comment that they enjoy the shape, size, and chewability of the extruded ice, thus increasing their satisfaction with the beverage.
Providing ice that is “safe and healthful for workers, communities, and consumers” is another way to respect and protect “people.” Using a hands-free method of delivering of ice into a cup improves the sanitary aspect of handling ice. This can easily be accomplished with an ice machine that is integrated into a dispenser. Typical dispensers use push buttons, levers, or infrared sensors to actuate the ice dispense. Placing a small ice machine/dispenser next to a coffee station in the office, a coffee kiosk, or retail location provides a quick, sanitary way to make an iced coffee beverage.
To protect the second “P,” “planet,” iced coffee purveyors should evaluate the efficiency of the ice machines they purchase as well as the materials of construction of the ice machines, associated dispensers, and other equipment. Check ice machines for the ENERGY STAR label, or efficiency ratings from the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE), as ENERGY STAR has not yet established programs for all the different ice machines and ice dispensers.
Supporting the use of extruded ice in iced coffee as it relates to “planet” are the characteristics of extruded ice machines themselves. The energy and water savings of extruded ice machines are “conserving of energy and natural resources”, and Follett’s Chewblet® ice machines, in particular, contribute to a reduction in carbon footprint by reducing electrical consumption up to 50% compared to similar sized cube-type ice machines and by lowering water usage up to 75%.
AFinally, refrigerants and insulation are important considerations in the sustainability equation. Make sure that refrigerants and any insulation blowing agents are CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) free to reduce the impact on global warming and ozone depletion
In today’s competitive environment, the third “P,” “profit,” has high visibility as a metric for evaluating any new initiative. In this regard, iced beverages can help grow sales and extruded ice can be a part of profitability improvement. Iced coffee is a high margin product that can increase revenue from both new and existing customers. Moreover, under “people,” we discussed how extruded ice could create a more exciting and satisfying beverage; this creates an opportunity to incent customers to return for repeat purchases.
Extruded icemakers are “economically efficient,” improving margins by making ice at a lower cost than traditional cube-type ice because of the lower consumption of electricity and water. Additionally, ice displacement (percent volume of ice in a cup) from extruded ice is higher than that from other types of ice. This means a little less higher-priced coffee and a little more lower-cost ice is used to create the iced coffee beverage. Therefore, the customer enjoys his or her beverage more with the extruded ice and the retailer pays less.
In conclusion, today is a great time for the coffee professional to get savvy about ice. The increasing interest in iced coffee gives the coffee retailer or coffee service operator the opportunity to increase revenue and profits and, by using extruded ice, be on the forefront of delivering the triple bottom line of sustainability – People, Planet, and Profit.
Michael Rice is Senior Product Marketing Manager for Follett Corporation. Follett Corporation is a leading manufacturer of ice machines, ice and water dispensers, and ice storage and transport equipment focused on innovative solutions that promote health, safety, and well-being in foodservice, healthcare, and office environments. Mike is also Adjunct Faculty at DeSales University where he teaches courses on Ethical Issues in the Workplace, including topics of Corporate Social Responsibility. Contact Mike at

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