An Israeli startup is looking to make ice cubes cool again — not by changing their temperature, but by allowing them to be branded.
As Icebow founder Elad Mor was sipping a ice cube-filled soft drink, the idea was born. If the company succeeds, the ice that clinks in our sodas could be decorated with logos or ads, or a wedding couple could have their smiling faces engraved on the ice in the whiskeys they serve.
Jerusalem-based Icebow has created a technology that allows branding the ice cubes using commercial ice machines. Logos, ads, images or other designs can be embossed at the center of the ice cubes, using only water and without any food additives.
“This is a cool, new way for brands to engage with customers, offering new levels of intimacy and brand affinity,” said Sagi Katz, head of business development at the firm. “Once integrated with our two core technologies, ice machines will be able to produce premium ice cubes with logos, images and other designs” imprinted in them.
The ice could show off a company’s brands, offer special promotions or personalize events like weddings or bar mitzvas, he said.
Ice production in commercial ice machines freezes water in molds and then uses heat to release the cubes in a process known as wet harvesting.
“This process of switching from freezing to heating uses a huge amount of energy and time,” said Elad Mor, the founder of the firm, in a phone interview. His technology uses air instead of heat to detach the ice from the molds, increasing the energy efficiency of the process by 25%-30%, he said.
In the US alone, which is 40% of the global ice market, energy costs for commercial ice machines are over $1.6 billion per year, Katz said.
Icebow’s imprinting technology allows water to freeze over special micron-size optical structures in a half a cube of ice — and then it bonds it with another regular half cube to form a full ice cube with the designs embossed at the center. These structures allow the light to reflect back, “so the logos/designs are bright and easily seen even when ice cubes are immersed inside a dark drink,” Katz said.
IceBow’s calculations show that its technology can save over $2,400 on energy costs during the seven to 10-era lifespan of a standard commercial ice cube machine that costs about $3,000-$5,000.
The company is targeting the food service and hospitality industries, like fast food chains, restaurants, hotels and bars, Katz said. But its direct customers would be the global makers of ice machines.
“We are in advanced discussions with three of the leading ice equipment makers worldwide,” he said. “The idea is to integrate, deploy and commercialize our technologies in their machines under a licensing and distribution agreement to make them faster, more energy efficient and cheaper. Smaller machines will now be able to produce the same amount of ice cubes.”
Company research has revealed no real competitors in the field yet, and there is much interest from the ice making industry. “They are giving us a lot of attention, at the highest levels, which is quite unique, given that the industry is very traditional and normally slow moving,” Katz said.
The company has also started “building up an ecosystem for the branded ice product,” Katz said, by “speaking to some of the biggest brands and venues out there. There is an initial interest but changing consumption habits is a slow process of course.”
Mor founded the company in August 2015. His experience with structural coating — in which the physical properties of surfaces can be changed by only changing their texture — led him to search for new industries and applications with surfaces that have so far not been exposed to printing and where dye or pigments cannot be used. The company has received funding from VLX Ventures and Cresson Management, a private investor.
“In the end of the day our mission is to turn cold drinks into a premium experience while saving the planet,” Katz said. Moreover, “when was the last time you actually paid attention to ice cubes?”