“I was in production all night,” smiles Damien Friley, manager of the “A domicile icicles” factory, a company that looks like a town house located in Asnières-sur-Seine (Hauts-de-Seine).
In the courtyard, behind a refrigerated van that will allow one of the factory’s four employees to deliver them, a pallet containing a ton of “classic, square” ice cubes is stored.
Distributed in twenty-kilogram bags, sold for twenty euros per bag, these ice cubes are prepared for professional customers, mainly “bars, restaurants and caterers”, or even nightclubs and fishmongers, explains Mr. Friley.
But not only: bags of three kilos are intended for individuals. They will be delivered “as soon as possible” to distributors, grocery stores or service stations in Paris and throughout the Île-de-France.
If he recognizes that his work is “rather seasonal”, Damien Friley is present all year round, 24 hours a day. But demand explodes when the mercury soars. “Distributors get more requests, so they trickle down to us.”
– 30 tons per day –
So the small business first honors “the orders of (its) usual customers, then those of others as far as possible”, explains its secretary, overwhelmed by calls and SMS orders. “We try not to forget anyone”.
Some 30 tons of ice can be produced every day in this human-sized factory, whose five machines spread over 300 square meters are running at full speed this Tuesday, with almost twice as many requests as normal.
Concretely, these ice cubes come from city water, treated and softened within the walls of the factory and frozen in a few minutes in imposing chrome machines. A process of creation “more economical than individual manufactures”, assures Mr. Friley.
A ton of ice being produced in less than an hour, bags are also piled up in the three cold rooms of the factory. “They can stay there two, three months, but there, the stock will be sold during the day,” he explains.
If the machines are now automatic – only one of them requires handling with a shovel to slip the ice cubes into the bags -, the job remains physical: hundreds of 20-kilogram bags are carried every day by employees.
“A domicile glaçons” also designs “crushed ice, for mojitos” or refined-looking ice cubes, in line with the demands of “palaces or large restaurants”, more expensive than classic cubes. However, the latter remain “the vast majority of production”.
– Quadrupled deliveries –
The company “Promo ice cubes”, which also manufactures its ice cream in Pantin (Seine-Saint-Denis), has noted since May an “early peak” in requests, “whereas in normal times, it will crescendo from of April”, according to Isabelle Galet, in charge of development.
This peak, initiated with the first strong heat in May, appears “every year a little earlier”, she told AFP. The multiplication, intensification and lengthening of heat waves are an unequivocal marker of global warming, according to scientists.
“Promo ice cubes” has set up a system of vending machines – 70 in total in Paris, Île-de-France and on the Normandy coast – in partner shops or in petrol stations.
For Ms. Galet, they offer “better accessibility to the ice cube and a cheaper product”, without the delivery costs. “And we have a desire to reduce our carbon footprint,” she notes, while the company has until then delivered its customers to their homes.
“Since last Saturday” and the announcement of the heat wave with temperatures above 30°C in most regions, distributor restocking and deliveries have quadrupled in eight days, she underlines.
If the distribution and delivery services are not lacking, the manufacturers are few in France. In Île-de-France, there are “four or five”, according to Damien Friley, and “certainly a few dozen” in the country, after the disappearance of factories manufacturing ice packs.