La Glacière, a seasonal business that can be prepared all year round

With the heat wave and the return of the holidays, the ice cubes are tearing up like hotcakes. All profit for the manufacturer La Glacière, even if summer is scheduled for winter.

With the return of sunny days then heat waverestaurants, bars, hotels, caterers and event organizers flocked to ice cubes. This bodes well for the few companies that, like The cooler in Brussels, have made the production and distribution of ice cubes, crushed ice and dry ice their main activity. We would be wrong, however, if we had to work the levers thoroughly only in this season…

“Producing ice cubes is not like operating a nuclear power plant, it’s not complicated,” explains Koen Torrekenswho bought La Glacière with his brother Bart and their wives in 2015, then took over its management alone with his wife in 2017. “The challenge is to have enough ice cubes available when the customer needs them. Our machines have a limited capacity; making very square, very transparent and very cold ice cubes takes time. In summer, we could never have sufficient capacity in view of the explosion in demand. It is therefore necessary to produce them in winter and store them in anticipation of the summer. The difficult redirect to actionsthat must be well planned throughout the year.”

“Producing ice cubes is not like operating a nuclear power plant, it’s not complicated.”

Koen Torrekens

CEO, La Glaciere

Logistics to be regulated like clockwork

Who says actions, says cold store. La Glacière will only be able to accommodate a few dozen pallets at its headquarters on rue de la Glacière, in Saint-Gilles, the company uses the services of the partner Ven-Agra, along the canal in Molenbeek, to store the bulk of its ice cubes, i.e. several thousand pallets. To note that Bart Torrekens, Koen’s brother, started the same business in Oudenaarde, from another company with no shareholder ties, Icelandic. “We stand in solidarity with each other,” smiles Koen. This means, concretely, that in the event of a shortfall in stock, the “sister” company can supply La Glacière.

“The complexity of the profession reside in its logistics“, completes Koen Torrekens. Because it is also a question of delivering the ice cubes quickly. Count half an hour to an hour, maximum. La Glacière serves Greater Brussels and allows himself a few incursions as far as Leuven or Namur. In the capital, its few drivers divide the zones into districts. Its main customers are Brussels bars and restaurants, as well as caterers. “We supply between 200 and 300 restaurants in the capital, including starred ones, but also ethnic ones and small establishments. The caterers’ clientele is less numerous, but orders larger quantities.”

“The complexity of the business lies in its logistics.”

Koen Torrekens

CEO, La Glaciere

The details are not left out. They also come to get ice cubes from her home, including her store in Saint-Gilles. “If you’re throwing a party in your backyard with dozens of invites, you’ll need 30 to 40 kilos of ice cubes to keep your drinks cool. It’s unlikely you’ll find that many at once in a supermarket.”

75 to 80%

share of ice cube production in La Glacière’s revenue

La Glacière derives the bulk of its income from ice cubes and 20 to 25% from dry ice sales.

As for dry ice (-80 C°), which represents 20 to 25% of its turnover, it is intended both for the needs of laboratories and for horeca establishments as well as event organizers who appreciate it for the release of smoke it causes.

The Anglo-Saxon market

After two delicate years due to the coronavirus and its impact on the horeca sector, La Glacière is posting good performances in 2022. The effect of a catch-up movement post-covid with the return of weddings, parties and festivals, as well as more than generous weather for two months.

“In addition to the regenerating and the multiplication of hot days, we benefit from two phenomenacontinues Koen Torrekens: the fact that we consume fewer beers and more cocktails, with or without alcohol, in bars and restaurants, on the one hand, and the arrival here of an Anglo-Saxon tradition ice cubes, on the other hand: Americans and English add it everywhere, in their sodas, their alcohols… The private consumption of ice cubes is therefore also increasing in our latitudes.”

Excluding viruses, activity is in structural growth. To the point that Koen Torrekens is now seeking to enlarge the basics of his business, an equation just as complicated as the management of his logistics. “We have the advantages and disadvantages of being established in the city, he says: it is difficult to expand, but at the same time, we are located near the heart of Brussels, where things are past.”

It is therefore not no coincidence that La Glacière is installed 200 meters from its ancestor, born in 1875 (and closed in 1993) on the heights of Saint-Gilles, in the street to which it gave its name: it is from there that it melts on the city, its bars and its restaurants…

The summary

  • With the return of sunny days, restaurants, bars and event organizers rush on ice cubes.
  • Which is all profit for the few companies which, like La Glacière in Brusselshave made the production and distribution of ice cubes their main activity.
  • If demand explodes in July and August, production is spread over the whole year, so that must skillfully manage the storage and logistics of ice cubes to meet summer needs.
  • Some recent developments stimulate their consumption, including the adoption of an Anglo-Saxon tradition, the return to favor of cocktails, not to mention the effects of global warming.
  • Excluding covid, the activity of La Glacière is in structural growthemphasizes its patron Koen Torrekens.

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