As iced beverage choices grow, so does the demand for more forms of ice.

Sponsored by Scotsman.

Iced beverages are hot—from iced coffee and iced tea to gourmet lemonade and handcrafted sodas, specialty beverages are on trend across the quick-service industry. As restaurants search for more points of differentiation, specialty beverages are becoming an easy way to offer unique items that drive profits and consumer loyalty. But when restaurants serve so many specialty cold beverages, the type of ice they use matters.

Not every beverage will be enjoyed the same way by consumers, and not every type of ice offers the best return for quick-service restaurants. Paying attention to ice options can be the key to unlocking the potential of a beverage program.

One big trend in iced beverages is nugget ice, also called pellet ice. This form is known for it’s unique shape and soft texture that make it almost addictively chewable. Found in carbonated soft drinks throughout the quick-service space, nugget ice is a profitable choice for restaurants and an appealing choice for consumers.

“Nugget is different from a cube, whether half cube or gourmet cube,” says Meghan Daro, brand director for Scotsman. “Cube is crystal clear, tasteless, and does not dilute the flavor. Nugget cools drinks much faster because it has more surface area and absorbs flavors of beverages so that consumers can enjoy that to the last drop.”

Additionally, ice chewers enjoy the soft, yet crunchy consistency that makes for a satisfying way to finish a beverage. In fact, this ice is so loved by consumers, that brands such as Sonic are using it as the foundation of beverage programs, and consumers tweet about their love for the affectionately known “Sonic ice” on Twitter.

And nugget ice also offers restaurants another plus—better profit margins.

“In the quick-service space,” Daro says, “consumers fill the glass all the way to the top with nugget ice so that syrup consumption in beverages is far less than with a cube because displacement is higher. Not only is it a benefit to a restaurant or whatever is using it, it’s a benefit on increasing margins and contributes to the enjoyment of the consumer.”

The more specialty beverages a restaurant offers, the more ice options it needs, so another trend growing on the tails of specialty beverages is restaurants that have two ice makers. With a cube maker on one side and a nugget maker on the other, restaurants can be prepared for anything.

“Nugget ice is ideal for beverages like iced coffees and sodas because it cools drinks down quickly and absorbs the flavor of the beverage,” Daro says.

For other beverages, such as iced teas and lemonades, consumers expect cubes, so many restaurants have two or more types of ice on hand.

Beverages offer restaurants great profits, and expanding menus can help quick serves capture sales and improve consumer loyalty. As beverage menus expand, restaurants must also consider the details of a great beverage and fine new, exciting ways to delight guests.

By Peggy Carouthers

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