De-Icer Kilfrost Expands Into Food to Beat Volatile U.K. Winter

  • Kilfrost in talks with pumpmakers over new lubricant range
  • British company to diversify even as Arctic blast approaches

Kilfrost Ltd., a U.K. maker of aircraft de-icing fluid, is expanding into lubricants used in foodmaking to ease a dependence on British weather even as an Arctic blast is poised to envelop the country.

After a mild winter hurt profit in 2015, the Haltwhistle-based company is seeking funds to roll out a new range of non-toxic lubricants used in food and drink pumps, Chief Executive Officer Gary Lydiate said in an interview on Jan 5. The diversification should help year-to-year earnings become more predictable regardless of varying demand for its core product, he said.

“Five years ago, Kilfrost came to the obvious realization that relying solely on a seasonal product wasn’t sensible,” Lydiate said.

Britain’s already erratic weather is becoming increasingly more changeable. Some recent winters have been marked more by flooding than snow and ice, yet five years ago the conditions got so bad that one large-body jet needed 13,000 liters (2,860 gallons) of de-icing fluid before it could take off, compared with an average of 500 litres, the CEO said. Even as a polar air-stream threatens to hit the U.K., sending temperatures as low as minus 10 degrees Centigrade (14 degrees Fahrenheit), Lydiate is moving full-speed ahead with plans for diversification, he said.

Kilfrost is among the last independent suppliers of aircraft de-icing chemicals, a niche market with high barriers to entry that’s attracted larger companies including Clariant AG, Dow Chemical Co. and Cryotech, a division of San Diego-based General Atomics International Services Corp. Among Kilfrost’s major U.K. customers is Airline Services, which de-ices planes at airports from London and Birmingham to Manchester, Exeter and Glasgow.

Free Reign

“The scientific team were given free reign to think about what next,” Lydiate said. They came up with a food-safe lubricant based on a new chemistry that avoids the toxicity of mono-ethylene glycol and the inefficiencies of mono-proplyene glycol.

During the next few weeks, closely held Kilfrost will help U.K. partner Solventis gain accreditation to produce its de-icing fluids under license at a site in Antwerp. That will allow Kilfrost to benefit from a royalty fee, which will in turn fund the new product range.

“We’ve done all the theoreticals and most of the practical stuff, and what we now need to do is sit down with some key buyers,” Lydiate said, adding that Kilfrost has already started to sell its new range to microbreweries and other smaller customers.

Talks are underway with large pumpmakers that supply to the food and drinks industries, he said, declining to give more detail.

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