The rise of the $8 ice cube, markets in everything

by on June 7, 2014 at 1:47 pm in Economics, Food and Drink | Permalink

So how can an ice cube be worth eight dollars?  It is simple eough:

“Gläce Luxury Ice is a meticulously designed and differentiated ice brand specifically designed for use in premium drinks and cocktails. The Gläce Mariko Sphere is a perfectly spherical 2.5-inch piece with a melting rate of 20-30 minutes. The Gläce G-Cubed, a symmetrical 2.5-inch cube, has a dilution rate of 20-40 minutes. Gläce Ice pieces are individually carved from a 300-lb. block to ensure flawless quality and a zero-taste profile, never contaminating the essence of premium liquors and drinks.”

Better yet:

In addition to their cubes, Gläce also offers the “Mariko,” a sphere that the company claims “is the most mathematically efficient way to cool your drink” — though probably not so for your bank account: 50 “spheres” run $325 (same as their cube counterparts).

And how does the company describe the “Mariko”?

“The sphere is the most efficient shape in nature holding the greatest volume to surface area ratio of any other geometric shape. Purified of minerals, additives and other pollutants that may contaminate the taste of premium liquors and drinks, the Gläce Luxury Ice Mariko sphere is meticulously crafted to deliver and embody the finest accessory for top shelf drinks.  Each five pieces are elegantly contained in a re-sealable pouch equipped with a one-way air check valve to ensure freshness.”

There is more here, including photos.

Marie June 7, 2014 at 1:52 pm

I don’t see how they can compete with Sonic ice, sold by the bag.

anon June 7, 2014 at 6:51 pm

$8 ice cubes remind me of a G.K. Chesterton quote:

“To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it.”

Marie June 7, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Thanks for that!

Yancey Ward June 7, 2014 at 1:59 pm

They have patented the spherical ice cube.

Jay June 7, 2014 at 2:02 pm

But do the people making the ice cubes have the proper licences? The same nanny-staters going after Uber drivers will soon be after people making ice cubes without having paid the government their proper licensing fees. Soon enough WalMart greeters will need to prove to the government they are competent for the job (I mean pay off the government) before they can work the floors of your local retail store.

Hello June 7, 2014 at 2:16 pm

you’re a real hit at social events, aren’t you?

neils June 7, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Will Walmart greeters have a higher certification requirements than attorneys? I only discuss Walmart online.

Marie June 7, 2014 at 3:03 pm

I think if this company survives it will start lobbying for ice licensing in order to drive out those grocery store competitors (proper licenses means less ice poisoning) and ensure folks can only make ice at home for their own use, giving it to friends and relatives will be considered unlicensed distribution. The next generation will find it perfectly reasonable that they have to pay $3000 plus a $500 lab fee and buy a $300 textbook in order to learn icecube engineering, and any guy who owns his own ice tray will look daring and rebellious.

neils June 7, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Think of the licensing potential for home fermentation; pickles, sauerkraut, and piccalilli? Each vegetable would require a separate certification.

Nikki June 7, 2014 at 6:15 pm

No need to stop at fermentation either: after all, unregulated food preparation is frightening and horrifying.

Marie June 7, 2014 at 7:08 pm

It took me a very, very long time to believe I could eat vegetables I fermented myself. Seriously, I stared at it in fear. Also a long time to eat meat sold (legally, by the cow) by a local rancher, if he’d shrink wrapped it I’d have felt better!

Explodicle June 7, 2014 at 5:49 pm

Sure, it sounds like a great idea… until something goes wrong. The second someone gets a brain freeze, they’ll go to the emergency room and pass all those costs on the rest of us.

Marie June 7, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Excellent point, you can put an eye out that way!

karl June 7, 2014 at 7:40 pm

I had a feeling you guys didn’t get out into the real world much. Packaged ice is regulated by the FDA and restaurant ice machines are subject to various state regulations. Anyone with minimal experience in the hospitality industry would know this. Just to be nice, I won’t even mention the phrase “ivory tower armchair quarterbacks.”

Marie June 7, 2014 at 8:47 pm

I’ve searched for a way to distance myself from the accusation that I didn’t think about ice being heavily regulated already, but I can’t. Phooey.

Mark Thorson June 7, 2014 at 11:54 pm

You didn’t think that bucket of ice in the mini-bar was free, did you?

Jan June 8, 2014 at 10:44 am

The FDA has been holding back life-saving ice innovations for years. You can show that some divisions of FDA’s Ice Regulation Department perform better than others by the variation in how quickly they approve ice technologies.

Jefff June 8, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Anyone who’s lived in Houston during a certain era will be familiar with the dangers of “Slime in the Ice Machine!!!” and the regulatory actions needed to control it.

Sam June 7, 2014 at 2:07 pm

I’m glad that the cube is symmetrical.

Willitts June 7, 2014 at 6:30 pm

Yeah, I thought all of them were. Now I know better. Learn something new here every day.

Mark Thorson June 7, 2014 at 8:28 pm

I remember a story about a high school shop teacher who would assign as punishment cutting a perfect cube. The student would cut a cube, then he’d bring out a micrometer and say “No, no, it’s a little shorter between these sides.” and send the student back to get it right. This could go on forever.

dead serious June 8, 2014 at 1:25 pm

In theory, forever, but in woodshop, less than forever.

Marie June 8, 2014 at 9:20 pm

+1.

But if you shot an arrow at the perfect cube in woodshop class, it could never get there, right?

John June 7, 2014 at 2:16 pm

There is really no other acceptable way to cool one’s glass of Fiji Water.

Thanatos Savehn June 7, 2014 at 2:24 pm

r – Glacé = g

Kevin Erdmann June 7, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Ha! Awesome.

Adrian Ratnapala June 8, 2014 at 7:49 am

If only it were really spelled “Glacé”. Then it would be a tiny, tiny, bit less ridiculous.

ummm June 7, 2014 at 2:26 pm

It’s frozen water in the shape of a sphere… am i missing anything

prior_approval June 7, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Its purity of essence.

Nikki June 7, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Hold on, doesn’t your shtick involve getting excited over all manner of silliness?

Charlie June 7, 2014 at 2:52 pm

There is no great stagnation!

Robert Wiblin June 7, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Wouldn’t ice shavings provide a higher surface area for that amount of ice?

bluto June 7, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Yes, the goal is lower surface area per volume to reduce the amount of liquid water diluting the drink.

Cliff June 7, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Of course the inescapable tradeoff is that it does not cool the drink to the same temperature…

Mike June 7, 2014 at 5:00 pm

False. Any stable mixture of ice and water(which occurs after a few minutes) will be exactly 32 degrees F (0 C), by definition. It may take a bit longer to cool your drink, due to less surface area, but the benefit is that it will take much longer to dilute your drink, resulting in a more consistent flavor from start to finish.

jamesoswald June 7, 2014 at 5:39 pm

That’s only if you start out with a pre-chilled drink. If the drink starts at room temperature, round ice doesn’t get you anywhere because by the time it gets the drink to 32 degrees, the ice has already melted, even with the slower melting rate. This is because the rate of cooling is inversely proportional to the rate of melting.

andrew' June 7, 2014 at 6:15 pm

I tested this with a thermocouple to prove a point to my wife about my mother in law wh always wants her glass filled to the top with ice. You actually do “gain” a degree or two. I still don’t think they could tell in a taste test nor is it worth filling drinks 3 times as often. It is mostly psychological.

dbp June 7, 2014 at 7:01 pm

Once the Ice/Water/EtOH mixture reaches equilibrium, the rate of melting should be the same regardless of ice area. This will be determined by how quickly heat is transferred into the drink from the surroundings.

For example: If you have a cube of ice in water and put the whole thing in a cooler that is exactly 0C. The ice will neither grow nor shrink.

Curt F. June 7, 2014 at 8:42 pm

Stable mixtures of ice and water which include things besides ice and water (e.g. alcohol) will not reach 32 degrees. They can get colder. You can observe this by putting an ice cube into a glass of vodka, and putting the glass into the freezer. The ice cube melts and the vodka doesn’t freeze.

Cliff June 7, 2014 at 11:05 pm

Also note that if the drink IS pre-chilled, the surface area makes no difference whatsoever. There is no free lunch to be had. The ice will melt at the same rate and the dilution will be the same regardless of the surface area. Only by melting can the ice lower the temperature of the water.

andrew' June 8, 2014 at 6:22 am

Colder drinks will absorb heat faster from that ambient.

This is why these kinds of questions kill me on an oral exam.

responsible D June 8, 2014 at 5:49 pm

Will the ice still be “perfectly spherical” when it reaches that equilibrium, or will its shape depend on the geometry of the vessel? If the latter, could we improve over this product by developing ice that is shaped as a function of the shape of the vessel into which it will be deposited, so that upon reaching equilibrium it will have become perfectly spherical?

Curt F. June 8, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Everyone keeps saying “equilibrium” but I don’t think they know what they mean. At equilibrium, the ice is all melted. What equilibrium is everyone talking about?

Chris S June 7, 2014 at 10:14 pm

Why not just laminate or otherwise coat the ice with plastic? Put it in a sandwich bag for instance. Prior art?

dan1111 June 8, 2014 at 3:42 am

Reusable plastic-coated ice cubes exist. And of course, lots of other methods to cool drinks exist, too, if this were really about minimizing dilution, and not just conspicuous consumption.

Jan June 7, 2014 at 3:11 pm

If you want a watery drink…

Rationalist June 7, 2014 at 6:48 pm

The main method by which ice cools water around it is by melting, so I think they are being a bit silly by promoting surface area to volume ratios; if it cools your drink it melts, therefore you get diluted. A/V just makes it happen slower or faster.

Optimal would be a cube of water with a thin plastic cover, I.e. a fake ice cube, because that will never dilute your drink.

dearieme June 7, 2014 at 3:10 pm

“premium liquors and drinks” consist of the best malt whiskies. One doesn’t put ice in them. A small amount of water may be added, preferably soft water, even more preferably water from a Highland burn. Such water is not expensive.

Jan June 7, 2014 at 3:15 pm

I usually just mix a Macallan 18 with Kool-Aid to watch the Scotch snobs’ heads explode.

Jan June 7, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Though I usually mix the Kool-Aid with water from a Highland burn.

TMC June 7, 2014 at 4:57 pm

+1

Skip Intro June 7, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Believe it or not, there are premium liquors that are not Scots whisky,

jamesoswald June 7, 2014 at 5:40 pm

False.

Mark Thorson June 7, 2014 at 8:37 pm

I consider the best whisky to be Crown Royal Special Reserve, which is a Canadian whiskey. Scotch whiskies are harsh by comparison.

David June 7, 2014 at 9:26 pm

Gimli

Michael Foody June 7, 2014 at 3:22 pm

The rich are making a great case for confiscatory taxation.

Cliff June 7, 2014 at 4:09 pm

By releasing this new product to appeal to the poor who want to look rich?

Timothy June 7, 2014 at 5:09 pm

Right, conspicuous consumption is very much a thing, buying expensive things for social status / “class” – which is what this company wants to sell, but they’re ripping people off. You can tell because any actual quality of the ice is in the $100 big block they buy.

Explodicle June 7, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Wait until he realizes how many ice cubes we’ll have to steal to buy a fighter jet.

Dismalist June 7, 2014 at 3:23 pm

“A sucker is born every minute.”

Devil's Dictionary June 7, 2014 at 4:34 pm

The rich who are stupid enough to buy such a nonsense simply deserve being taxed at the Piketty-esque rates. However, count out the rest of us.

Mike W June 7, 2014 at 4:58 pm

“The rich” don’t buy such products…they own the companies that sell them to those who want to appear rich.

anon June 7, 2014 at 11:41 pm

“Sell to the masses, live with the classes ….”

Jan June 8, 2014 at 10:46 am

Nah, I’m pretty sure all classes of people buy stupid stuff. Whether it is the Brooks Brothers cufflinks or the retro Air Jordans, everyone does it.

mitch June 7, 2014 at 4:43 pm

“is the most mathematically efficient way to cool your drink.” Incorrect.
Lens shaped is actually the best shape for ice. Cubes cool your drink too slowly. Crushed ice melts and waters down your drink too much. Lens shaped is the perfect solution. See my Kickstarter campaign for more info.

Cliff June 7, 2014 at 11:07 pm

lol

RR June 7, 2014 at 5:02 pm

…….”a sphere that the company claims “is the most mathematically efficient way to cool your drink” — though probably not so for your bank account -”
Not true. It cools ( and hopefully does not freeze) the Bank Account too.

Nick_L June 7, 2014 at 5:39 pm
Highgamma June 7, 2014 at 7:43 pm

Don’t forget to use distilled water.

Mark Thorson June 7, 2014 at 8:34 pm

Not good enough if it’s absorbed gas from the air. You need to sonicate while pulling a vacuum, followed by sparging with helium.

Amateurs. You don’t know anything about ice.

anon June 7, 2014 at 11:25 pm

We are so ashamed.

Jonathan June 8, 2014 at 12:02 am

Thanks! I learned a new word… sparging. I’m not sure when I’m going to use it… but I have it now and no one can take it away from me… not even Piketty with his fancy word tax.

Vernunft June 7, 2014 at 5:54 pm

It’s the greatest of a group it’s not in? Epic grammar fail there.

Harun June 7, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Interesting how several commenters have decided that this product means that the “rich” should be taxed punitively, whereas we often hear that the rich never spend their capital, and that consumption is great for the economy. So which is it?

I guess in the Puritan Progessive mindset, the better world would be where the rich cannot afford artisanal ice cubes, the money instead goes to some bureaucracy to spend on a Star Trek parody video, and we achieve the Year Zero.

GiT June 7, 2014 at 6:42 pm

It’s pretty simple: the marginal consumption habits of rich people are more vicious than those of the poor.

Urso June 9, 2014 at 4:04 pm

But not more viscuous, thanks to their perfectly-crafted ice cubes.

Marie June 7, 2014 at 7:24 pm

Yes, but in the actual Puritan mindset you have a moral obligation to use your money with prudence. That doesn’t mean not spending your capital, it means not spending your capital to encourage people to manufacture stupid, wasteful junk.

karl June 7, 2014 at 7:45 pm

I assume the Puritan mindset would also disapprove of pretentious umlauts?

Marie June 7, 2014 at 8:46 pm

I’ve never been called an umlaut before!

Greg G June 7, 2014 at 6:08 pm

It is difficult not to see this as evidence of rising income inequality.

derek June 8, 2014 at 2:40 am

Wouldn’t that depend on how many of these cubes are sold?

Peter June 7, 2014 at 6:16 pm

This reminds me: Walgreen’s has a half-price sale on douche bags.

andrew' June 7, 2014 at 6:19 pm

That “cube” really takes the edge off!

Willitts June 7, 2014 at 6:34 pm

Piketty is shaking his snifter in anger

BTW, Piketty says that a lot of his critics have never read his book. Coincidentally, neither have most of his supporters.

Marie June 7, 2014 at 7:29 pm

+1

Anonymous Cousin June 7, 2014 at 8:17 pm

The Emperor’s New Cocktail…

chuck martel June 7, 2014 at 9:16 pm

I’ve recently patented a “reverse microwave” that’s ideal for quickly cooling premium liquors without diluting them. It’s also useful for creating home-made ice cream.

anon June 7, 2014 at 11:27 pm

Kickstarter or Indiegogo?

freethinker June 7, 2014 at 11:39 pm

anon quotes Chesterton “To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it.” Is he saying only dull people desire to be rich? Who is to decide how much money I should desire not to be considered dull? And how can libertarians pass judgment on rich guys willing to pay $8 for an ice cube in a free market economy?

anon June 7, 2014 at 11:44 pm

how can libertarians pass judgment

Libertarians pass judgment all the time. They just don’t want the state enforcing it.

Marie June 8, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Gosh, if all the things I was judgy about got made into law, no one would be able to breath!

I like the quote because it can run in so many different directions — if you read it kinda British as the only people smart enough to get all that money are the people foolish enough to want it, I’d bet there are thousands of wealthy people who would see wisdom in that.

If you look upon “dull” as narrow in interests, it seems like that’s also something a lot of rich people would agree with. I have known some fairly wealthy people that question themselves whether the interests they had to give up to pursue the path of wealth was more of a loss than they should have taken. Of course, they are wealthy enough to now have the luxury of regret, you could say.

Individuals vary, but you can certainly read the quote not as a criticism of the wealthy but as sympathy for them. Which I think many deserve. It’s not an easy life, either getting there or living there. Maybe it’s snotty to say, but if you find you need to buy $300 ice cubes to try to find a little joy in life, you’re in a tough place.

freethinker June 8, 2014 at 8:30 pm

Marie, thanks for the clarification about Chesterton’s quote. About the ‘need” to buy $300 ice cubes: I don’t think it is a question of “need” but one of ability to pay $300 for ice cubes. perhaps one can be proud to be in a position to afford that kind of lifestyle?

Marie June 8, 2014 at 9:17 pm

No clarification, just opinion. Love your libertarian definition below!

Wouldn’t pride be something of a need, though? But in thinking about it, I often buy something goofy just for the fun of it if it’s cheap, so I guess I could see some rich guy buying these just for fun because they were chump change for him.

freethinker June 8, 2014 at 8:13 pm

So the libertarian motto is: ” you have the right to spend your money any way you want to, even if I think you are being stupid” Makes sense

Ray Lopez June 8, 2014 at 12:56 am

Ho-hum. CNTRL-F “Veblen Good”, “Giffen Good” no hits. TC having a little fun with the econ ignoramuses. Time to move on.

prior_approval June 8, 2014 at 2:48 am

No reason not to link to the original work – The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen, http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/833

What makes this particularly piquant is that Veblen’s work originated in a time frame with a social and economic structures more closely resembles America’s now than that of an autbhor writing in the 1960s.

andrew' June 8, 2014 at 6:28 am

The sphere really might work.

If you pull down a billion a year an $8 ice cube is trivial if it makes your drink .1% better.

Steve June 8, 2014 at 9:43 am

That should be “melting time,” not “melting rate.”

Ray Lopez June 8, 2014 at 9:54 am

But doesn’t a sphere melt at a slower rate when it is small? Seems so…since surface area to volume is smaller. But your point is well taken.

Robert Redl June 8, 2014 at 10:17 am

too late. Apple already got iCE trademarked

Scott H. June 8, 2014 at 2:37 pm

I guess I’m the only one that noticed what “marico” means in Spanish? (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Alan June 8, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Ok, ok , ok! Freeze some grapes and use those already. Then the rich can get frozed varietal grapes from the smooth buttocks hills for their drinks.

Willitts June 9, 2014 at 1:33 am

Ice just takes up precious volume in the glass and scarce time to enjoy the spirits.

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