causes, consequences and likely timeline in Aragon

The ice crisis is a fact; although it has exploded now, with the lack of spare parts in supermarkets and forced rationing in distributors and catering establishments, It’s something that’s been winding since spring. The reason given by the producers and corroborated by the other elements of the service chain is above all economic; the costs of conservation with soaring electricity prices in a sector particularly affected by the pandemic, which wiped out many modest factories, are decisive in understanding the current shortage situation. In addition, the drought and the very low level of the swamps have also compromised the water supply; a perfect storm situation.

Alejandro Puyuelo, quality manager of the Frescofrío ice cream plant, explained this Friday from the company’s warehouse in Mercazaragoza that the economic reason for this shortage is clear. “It’s been commented on before, and it’s the plain truth. The increase in electricity last year, a factor that has continued to worsen in 2022, skyrocketed the cost of storing ice in external chambers. Producers start storing ice in February to cover it all summer; however, literally doubling the cost…we’re coming through a pandemic, we’ve had a bad time, we’re still paying ICO credits and that extra storage cost has already made it impossible for us.”

more hurdles

Puyuelo explains that there are other surrounding issues. “To the extreme heat is added the lack of rain and the fact that the first heat wave arrived in May; Producers make winter forecasts for three strong months, from June to August, which in 2022 have already been experienced. Our safety stock is gone; in May we already sold 40% more than usual, and in June more than 50%”.

“The only current solution is to dose the customers”

The current daily production of Frescofrío is 50 tons of ice cream. “We couldn’t cope. In August, with all village festivities once again free of restrictions, demand is at its peak. And since February, we have been working at 100% of our capacity, 24 hours a day, in cubes, flakes and cocktail ice cream… The only current solution is to dose customers”.

Each standard bag of ice cubes contains five 2-kilogram packs.
Each standard bag of ice cubes contains five 2-kilogram packs.
Guillermo Mestre

The representative of Frescofrío also highlights the effects of the social alarm generated by a supermarket refrigerator empty of ice packs. “Then you see people in the supermarket with a cart full of ice cream, and that doesn’t make sense either; in most private homes you can’t even keep everything you take, many bags of two kilos each, it’s a question of space. Moreover, making this collection means leaving others without ice; it is impossible to keep supplying everyone at the same time with the new playing conditions and the usual increase in demand. We will continue to go to the maximum of our possibilities, and we hope that in mid-September the situation will stabilize”.

The company worked in the industrial ice segment since 1994. “The truth is that since then we have noticed that the heat starts earlier and goes away later; this year, of course, has already been extreme. We had plans to expand our facilities in 2020, with a consolidated project, and everything was paralyzed. In April and May 2020, not a single cube was sold, moreover, because of the confinement. With the market turning again, this current situation means that we will not achieve everything and we must postpone the expansion for the time being”.

Breakdowns and parts

Frescofrío also highlights the problem of machine parts in the event of possible breakdowns. “You have a breakdown at the bagger or at the manufacturer and the part that breaks down does not arrive in six months, because there is none. Result: six months with a production line shut down. We purchased a delivery van last January, which has not yet arrived. Finally… Until a year or two passes and the situation stabilizes, we face a very clear precarious reality. And that we don’t just distribute in Aragonbut we also have clients from supermarkets and department stores in the Basque Country, Catalonia and the Valencian Community”.

“They called us from all over Spain and some European countries looking for material; the crisis is not only Spanish”

Puyuelo specifies that “we have been called from all over Spain and from some European countries in search of material; the crisis is not only Spanish. In our country there were about 400 factories before the pandemic, but many small ones had to close for these sticks we’re talking about. And that in Spain we are the main exporters of ice cream in Europe”.

The Salillas Approach

Located at Alagondistributor Paco Salillas (also works with Frescofrío) summarizes his impressions in very clear lines. The one who was a first division footballer and striker for the Royal ZaragozaVillarreal or Celta entered the sector some time ago, in another company, and in the context of the current situation, they have decided to reduce the scope of their operations.

“Wholesalers’ expenses – he specifies – were exorbitant at the time of storage; That’s why we are where we are. We serve the usual fixed customers, and although they call us every day hoteliers and gas station attendants we have to prioritize those who have always been there. They tell you that they pay double or even triple in some cases, but to retain your customers you must first help out those who have trusted you for years.

Salillas only moves ice within a 30 kilometer radius of Alagón. “Before, we served all of Aragon, but we found ourselves with a minimal structure and we prefer to cover less and ensure distribution. My maxim for a long time has been that the company is the size I want, no more and no less. Also, after eight years in my other company, Pádel Indoor Alagón, I am more focused on the racket, we have two paths and there is no intention to grow more, but to stay; Luckily I’m still fit to teach and have a good time on the track. There are more and more actors in the region and I am very happy with the reaction of people”.

In bars and supermarkets

Antonio Giménez, owner of the Mexican bar-restaurant Bravo Cafe (Calle Tarragona, 12) explains that “we did not run out of ice cream, although the supplier told us that he lacked reserves and that despite being manufacturers he bought from larger companies in outside of Aragon so as not to run out of Reservations The demand for heat has of course increased, but we can see that the drop in storage due to electricity costs has played a key role. We took our measures with a vocation of solidarity, and we put a little less ice than before; more than for saving itself, to row all together in the current situation, it is not saving for economic reasons, it is a cheap product”.

Giménez explains the commitment to being responsible and pleasing its customers at the same time. I also tell you that we put less ice, but if the customer asks for more ice, he puts more ice; the idea is to combine solidarity and correct service. What I’ve come to realize these days is that people also seem to have taken notice and aren’t asking for that extra ice cream. Let’s see what happens, anyway. Esto también will receive me a poco a las movidas del papel hygiénico o el aceite de girasol, en un domicilio común es una barbaridad échar tres bolsas de hielo de dos kilos al freezer y no tener sitio para los nuggets’ de los chavales, los guisantes o Fish”.

Other establishments, such as San Siro (Costa, 3) opted a long time ago to make your own ice cream. “Here, we have long preferred this alternative; That is why this situation has not affected us,” explained one of its employees, Juan Carlos Ortiz.

The situation also led to episodes of picaresque. At a supermarket in the city’s downtown, one of the cashiers said she witnessed a family of four tricking them into buying ice cream, limited in the establishment to two two-kilo bags per nobody. “The four of them were together at the door, father, mother and two teenage sons, and the mother explained to them aloud that they had to enter one by one and pay separately. Of course, technically they weren’t breaking the norm, but that’s very little solidarity with whoever comes next.

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