Innovative Ice Vending Business Continues Rapid National Growth - Company Enters Southwest, Expects to Hit 500 Houses by the End of the Year

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The process of combining water and cold temperature that hasn’t changed much since the Chinese cut and stored ice in 1,000 B.C is seeing a dramatic consumer shift. Why? Because an entrepreneur — a retired engineer — came up with an innovative new approach, combining the ice cube with an ATM vending style concept with the capability of making up to 13,000 pounds of ice per day.

In July 2004, Ice House America President Bob Alligood proudly set up his company’s 4th Ice House, a patented, fully automated ice vending concept that bags and dispenses on demand up to 20lbs of ice in less than 10 seconds. Today, Alligood recently celebrated the placement of his 250th Ice House, with hundreds more in development.

Last month, the company announced the addition of New Mexico as is expected to finalize contracts for dealerships throughout the Southwest and Midwest.

Despite less than 18 months in operation, Ice House America is already having an affect on the ice business, with revenue representing approximately 1% of sales in the $2.5 billion packaged ice industry. In fact, the company has grown from $3.5 million in revenue in 2004 to more than $11 million by year end. Projected 2006 revenue is expected to reach $28 million.

“I knew that this product would be successful, but, frankly, the growth has exceeded even our high expectations,” said Ice House America President Bob Alligood. “I think it is truly a tribute to the ingenuity of the product and the consumer’s desire for convenience, quality and lower prices for all their needs, including ice.”    

Ice House America produces automatic ice vending machines with the capability of producing up to 13,000 pounds of ice per day in a fully automated process. The unit uses a patented technology to produce ice that is not only fresh, but also fast – a bag of ice or bulk ice is available in less than 10 seconds.

But while convenience has been a true testament to its early success, the Ice House scores high with customers by providing more than twice the ice for about the same price as current retail bagged ice competitors. 16lbs of bagged ice or 20lbs of bulk ice costs $1.25 or less in most markets, while an 8lb bag bought in a retail establishment averages $1.29.

Moreover, ice quality is not sacrificed with the temperature fluctuations and distribution issues that affect the traditional ice distribution process. A majority of the packaged ice industry still produces ice in large regional manufacturing facilities that is transported to local markets by refrigerated ice trucks.

In fact, this antiquated distribution process recently affected hurricane relief efforts, with tons of ice sitting idle awaiting distribution to affected Gulf Coast residents. As a result, Ice House America donated two of their Ice Houses to the Houston Astrodome for the relief workers and victims of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. Ice was also donated by dealers in Louisiana and Mississippi for victims in those areas. Collectively, more than 500,000 lbs of ice was donated during Hurricane season. Plans are in development to provide additional support for hurricane disaster relief for the 2006 Hurricane Season.

Ice House America, LLC is the privately owned manufacturer of patented automated ice vending machines known as Ice Houses. The company, based in Atlantic Beach, FL, with its manufacturing facility in Moultrie, GA., was founded in November of 2003 and now operates more than 225 units in 13 states. For more information on the company, visit http://www.icehouseamerica.com.

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Keith Lechwar

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