Selling ice in Nigeria: Entrepreneur spots gap in market where ‘there is always a party’

Kikelomo Adeniji, co-founder of Iceplace Millennial

Iceplace Millennial produces edible ice on a large scale for restaurants, clubs and events companies in Nigeria, mostly in Lagos. The idea for the business was conceived in 2019 when Kikelomo Adeniji’s co-founder returned from a night out, mentioning that a friend was complaining about a sore throat and ascribing it to unhygienic ice used at such establishments. Barely two years later, the company counts a large number of clubs and events companies in Lagos as its customers. Jeanette Clark spoke to Adeniji about the company’s journey so far.

From concept to factory

When the idea for Iceplace Millennial was born, Adeniji was a stay-at-home mom studying for her master’s. Even though there were already companies in the city producing ice, Adeniji felt that with her background in communications, she could differentiate her company’s product from what was available.

“There was a vacuum for edible ice cubes. In Nigeria, there is always a party, every weekend, clubbing, lounges … Most clubs were not focused on ensuring the ice used in their establishments was hygienic, safe and edible,” she says.

The first thing she did was to research the machinery that would be required. Adeniji found a manufacturer in China and started discussions. She settled on one that could produce cylindrical ice cubes as these were not readily available in the city.

“One of our contacts was in China at the time and could visit the factory to look at the machines and test the quality. We ordered one and it was shipped,” she recounts.

In the following months, Adeniji searched for a warehouse. Finding the right location was crucial. It had to have access to good quality borehole water and when a space became available in Yaba, Lagos, she snatched it up.

“We registered the business with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) only once we had the warehouse and had started renovations. We installed the machine, added a filtration device to ensure the safety of the product for human consumption, and set up a cold room to store the ice,” she explains.

To combat the unstable supply of electricity in Nigeria, Iceplace Millennial also installed a generator.

Operations stalled by Covid-19 pandemic

The company was ready to go in 2020. However, restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19 were quite severe. They had to wait it out as the demand for ice from clubs, lounges and restaurants took a plunge.

“After the lockdowns were lifted, we had a trial period. We would produce the ice and supply it to potential clients at no cost,” Adeniji remembers. “One of our first clients was a drinks vendor for cocktails. We invited her into the factory and showed her the production process. The feedback we received was very encouraging.”

By December 2020, the company was gearing up to produce more, coinciding with the gradual re-opening of the economy and leisure activities in Lagos. “We started marketing quite aggressively and distributed handbills and flyers, focusing on our Instagram page and paid social media advertising. It was important to show how the ice is produced and what it looks like when it comes out,” says Adeniji.

Everything about the process needed to show the company’s commitment to clean, hygienic practices, making sure customers felt they could trust the quality of the ice they were purchasing.

Meeting the demand for ice

Iceplace Millennial has a 15-tonne ice machine. When running at full capacity, it can produce fifteen 50kg sacks of cylindrical ice cubes in an hour.

While Adeniji is happy with the customers they have secured, the demand is nowhere near enough to exhaust the capacity of the machine. “At the moment we are not even running it for five full hours to meet the demand. In future, we might look at expanding and installing a 20-tonne machine, but not yet.”

The company has a delivery van, which it uses to deliver ice to its customers using Igloo coolers. “We don’t yet have a refrigerated truck for deliveries. The coolers we currently use are sufficient as the ice lasts up to three days,” says Adeniji.

“For the moment, we are trying to capture as much of the Lagos market as possible,” she notes. “We have had customers asking when we will expand to Abuja or Ibadan, but the market here is not yet saturated.” Adeniji believes this move will likely come only in three to five years as it would mean that a separate factory would have to be set up to serve as a hub for deliveries.

“I am looking at Ibadan in Oyo State because they don’t have any ice factories there. They produce only the long ice blocks, so there is opportunity.”

Sales channels and being available 24/7

Most of Iceplace Millennial’s orders and sales come from Instagram followers via direct messages or WhatsApp.

“I keep telling people, ice is like the life of the party. You can’t have a lounge or a club and serve warm drinks. We often get last-minute emergency calls when the ice runs out. We’ve always advertised that we are open and available 24/7. I have orders still coming in at 01:00 and then I can be chatting to another customer at 05:00,” she says.

Diversification on the cards

“There is a general consumer trend towards healthier living and eating, as well as exercising,” says Adeniji. This is a space where she feels the brand is poised to gain more customers if it expands its product offering. However, it won’t simply be other shapes or sizes of ice.

“We are currently looking at bottled alkaline water under the same brand name. I think this is a good opportunity,” she reveals and adds that in future, Iceplace Millennial may consider entering the lounge or restaurant sector with an offering of its own.

Iceplace Millennial founder Kikelomo Adeniji’s contact information

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