The History of Howe Ice Machines

As a Midwestern farmer, William Henry Howe knew a lot about fixing things. At the turn of the 20th century, while working as a skilled mechanic at a small dairy and ice cream plant, he quickly saw the need for improvements in the plant’s refrigeration equipment. Shortly thereafter, Howe and his three sons were designing, producing, and servicing state-of-the-art refrigeration equipment. In 1912, William founded the Howe Corporation with a focus on industrial refrigeration equipment. Used in food processing and industrial applications, the original machines were very large and produced about 10 tons or 20,000 pounds of ice per day. 

After serving as a pilot in World War II, William’s grandson, Richard Howe, found a rudimentary design for an ice machine manufactured by a company in Chicago. Howe Corporation bought the designs for the basic ice flaker, and Richard spent the next five years totally redesigning it. His hard work resulted in the Rapid Freeze® Flake Ice Machine—still going strong 60 years later as the company’s leading small industrial machine—producing true flake ice that is sub-cooled and dry. Moreover, this machine has a global reputation for unmatched energy efficiency and low maintenance. 

About 20 years after Richard Howe worked on an enhanced flake ice machine, the company started getting requests for ice machines for commercial applications. Supermarkets, retail fish stores, smaller bakeries, and small food processors were looking for reliable and efficient ice machines. Howe engineers took the same ice machine design the company used for the large, industrial applications and made them smaller to accommodate the commercial applications. Now the smallest machine produces 1,000 pounds of ice per day. The largest machine makes 40,000 pounds of ice per day. “A typical supermarket may use either a machine that produces 1,000 pounds of ice per day, or one that produces 4,000 pounds of ice per day. A large food processing facility may use machines in between our smallest … 1,000 pounds of ice per day and our largest … 40,000 pounds of ice per day,” says President Mary Howe, great-granddaughter of William Howe. “But the thing we did in taking a really heavy duty, indestructible industrial ice machine and duplicating the design in a smaller productive capacity was to give commercial users the option of a machine that can run 24 hours a day, seven days a week and withstand hard use. We have a 25-year evaporator warranty because if the machine stops working, you’re stopping somebody’s production, and food processors don’t want that to happen. Time is money,” says Mary Howe. 

What is flake ice used for? This ice, which looks almost like soap flakes, has myriad uses in the produce, supermarket, sausage, poultry, dairy, catering, construction, concrete cooling, and bakery industries. For example, flake ice is used to pull the field heat out of produce at harvest season and helps keep produce from spoiling. Supermarkets need flake ice to attractively display products in the meat, seafood, and delicatessen departments. And, flake ice is used extensively in the seafood industry—everywhere in the process—from commercial fishing boats to the dockside to shipping.” Howe flake ice cools products more quickly than other kinds of ice because it is 22° F. Some supermarkets also use Howe flake ice in their smoothie bars. Ice is also used in meat processing. When making hotdogs or sausages, the moisture that goes into them is actually introduced as ice. Food processors cook the meat, and then they’re required to bring it down to a certain temperature very quickly. To accomplish this, food processors put ice in meat when running it through a grinder. With poultry, food processors run the poultry through a slurry mix, a mix of ice and water. 

In the construction industry, ice is used for concrete cooling by mixing ice with the concrete aggregate to keep the concrete cooler in the truck longer. Flake ice can also be used to regulate the cure rate because the slower the concrete cures, the stronger it is. This explains why construction workers run chilled water for concrete cooling through freshly poured cement when they’re building dams. 

Cooling bakery products quickly is essential for any industrial bakeries. Ice is added to the dough when bakers are mixing it. French croissants owe their flakiness to both flaked ice and very chilled butter. 

And Howe flake ice makes dynamite margaritas! Here’s a recipe to try sometime this summer: 


  • 7 parts tequila
  • 4 parts triple sec
  • 3 parts lime juice
  • Howe flake ice, as needed
  • coarse salt Lime wedge, for garnish


  • Salt the rims of margarita glasses. Pour salt on a small plate. Moisten the rims of the glasses with a damp towel and then press the glasses into the salt.
  • Put the tequila, triple sec, lime juice, and Howe flake ice into a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into glasses and garnish the edge of the glasses with a lime wedge.