What's hot? Ice
Ice — in exotically shaped cubes, boozy popsicles or suffusing your coffee — is having its moment in the zeitgeist.
- "There's this trend of people trying to be more sophisticated about how they keep their drinks cool," Leana Salamah of the International Housewares Association tells Axios.
Driving the news: Ice is popping up everywhere, all at once:
- Cocktail culture has embraced giant ice spheres, mini-cubes and novelty shapes (like bulldogs, skulls and pineapples).
- Bartenders and party hosts are freezing flowers into their cubes, while parents are freezing small toys into ice squares for their kids to crack open.
- Appliance maker LG has trademarked the term "Craft Ice," referring to the 2-inch orbs that its newest lines of refrigerators cough out.
- Elaborate ice sculptures — sometimes with fancy LED light backdrops — are showing up at weddings, corporate events and elsewhere.
- Coffee purveyors from Dunkin' to Starbucks to Tim Hortons are pushing iced drinks for fall — pour me a frosty pumpkin latte! — amid evidence that younger slurpers prefer their brew cold.
What they're saying: "Cold has kind of taken over," former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said in an earnings call last November.
- "Cold has certainly surprised us all at Starbucks."
By the numbers: More than 60% of Gen Z consumers ordered a cold coffee drink from a food service location in the first half of 2022, compared with 33% who ordered a hot coffee drink, says Mintel, the trend-spotting consultancy.
- That's why Nespresso and Keurig introduced "new iced formulas of their single-serve products" this year, Modern Retail reports.
- At the same time, American tourists are getting scorned in Europe for their ice-loving ways. (In other cultures, ice is seen as taking valuable real estate away from the beverage at hand.)
Ice, ice baby: Housewares makers have cottoned to the craze, with new products like the Avanti countertop nugget ice maker ("enjoy the restaurant-quality nugget ice you crave") and Oggi large-sphere ice cube molds. (Nuggets appeal to people who like to chew ice.)
- Williams Sonoma offers dozens of fanciful ice molds — so you can add frozen poodles, Darth Vader or the Hogwarts Castle to your highball.
- "The larger ice cubes, whether they're the spheres or the cubes, are very, very popular," Salamah said. "They don't water down your drink as quickly."
- "Bar-quality" clear ice — with less cloudiness and fewer impurities — is the brass ring: Stand-alone gadgets like the Ice-ology from Dexas let you make two 2-inch round cubes at a time at home (it takes 12 hours).
Flashback: Before electric refrigerators became widely available in the 1930s, ice (in drinks and home iceboxes) was a status symbol for the wealthy — it was harvested from frozen lakes by horses pulling plow-like ice cutters.
In 2019, LG became the first refrigerator maker to produce those big round ice balls in its ice-making trays — something no other manufacturer is doing, according to William Kwon, senior product manager of refrigeration in LG's home appliances division.
- "People want more ice; people want different kinds of ice," Kwon tells Axios, citing LG consumer surveys.
- The latest LG ThinQ refrigerators offer up to four types of ice: regular cubes, crushed, miniature and 2-inch Craft Ice balls.
- "By default, it produces three ice balls per day with a 90% clarity," Kwon said. Through an app, consumers can "change it to six ice balls per day with around 70% clarity."
Meanwhile, ice is also making a strong showing in new food products, particularly those that cater to our growing taste for fun foods.
- Food makers are pumping out everything from beer-flavored popsicles ("Coors-icles," which are — curiously — nonalcoholic) to frozen margaritas in ice pop form (Bud Light's Freeze-a-Ritas — which, yes, are for adults).
Where it stands: Designer ice has become "the height of domestic luxury," per The New York Times.
- "Frozen water, which costs most Americans virtually nothing, is being redefined as a luxury item," Becky Hughes writes in the Times.
- "At fashion-brand parties, ice cubes stamped with the company's logo are de rigueur. On tables at high-end weddings, fairy lights in Mason jars are out and wildflowers suspended in $14 ice cubes are in."