FBD Frozen. Woman holding a frozen drink.

When it comes to high-margin products, few have as much upside and opportunity as frozen drinks. 

According to a Beverage Consumer Trend Report by Technomic, 51% of consumers purchased frozen drinks last month alone. With such popularity and such low costs, frozen drinks can return profit margins of 70-120% – a result of their popularity and low cost.

This 50 point range in profit opportunity is a result of a few variables, including location, business type, foot traffic, and more. Of all factors, however, the type of machine has some of the greatest impact on profit margins for frozen drink machines.

In this article, we will compare two of the most popular machines, granitas and frozen drink dispensers with the goal of identifying the superior model.

What are Granitas and Frozen Drink Dispensers?

Even if you’ve never heard the terms “granita machine” and “frozen drink dispenser”, you probably have seen both in action. Popular at convenience stores, bars, restaurants, and plenty more retail venues, frozen drinks are almost impossible to avoid in modern American life, after all.

While similar, the two machine types have drastic differences in appearance and functionality. In this section, we will explore those differences, as well as discuss the mutual benefits they share.

Granita Machines 

Invented in Italy in the 1800s, granita machines mix fruit juice, sugar, and coarsely shaved ice together into a frozen beverage, often called “Italian Ice.” 

While similar to milkshakes and sorbet, granitas produce frozen drinks without the need for dairy. As a result, the beverages have a coarse texture, earning the nickname “slushy.” Just like in 19th century Italy,, a granita recipe today still includes water, ice, sugar, and flavorings.

Granita machines make and produce drinks in a large bowl, which uses a compressor to cool the mixture to a semi-frozen state, an auger to turn the mixture and prevent it from solidifying, and a nozzle to dispense the beverage into a cup.

Today, slushy drinks can range from frozen lemonades to iced coffee to frozen margaritas to frozen cocktails, all of which are extremely popular. All of these drinks can be served with a granita machine.

FBD Frozen. Granita machines on a counter next to frozen drink dispensers.

Frozen Drink Dispensers

The modern version of the classic Italian invention, frozen drink dispensers produce beverages in a similar way to soda fountains.

Frozen drink dispensers combine flavored syrup with water and carbon dioxide, which are then injected into a cylinder surrounded by refrigerant – chilling the drink below the freezing point of water. With a combination of pressure (up to 40 P.S.I.), sugar, and CO₂, frozen drink dispensers prevent their mixtures from solidifying.

Overall, CO₂ makes up around 50% of a frozen carbonated beverage. More than just a way to cut costs on water or syrup, CO₂ is the reason carbonated frozen drinks have a smooth, fluffy consistency. After being dispensed into a cup, the pressure releases, causing ice crystals to form and expand, leading to the foam-like consistency we all love fondly.

A mainstay in American retailers, popular frozen carbonated beverages include:

  • ICEE
  • Slurpee (7-Eleven)
  • KOOLEE (Kum&Go)
  • FREEZONI (QuikTrip)
  • Frozen Baja Blast (Taco Bell)

Mutual Benefits

While inherently different, it’s important not to understate the benefits both granita machines and frozen drink dispensers have. These benefits include:

  • High demand: Frozen drinks can directly lead to increased foot traffic and sales. Recent studies show that 51% of consumers have ordered a frozen beverage in the last month, with an additional 30% saying they’ve purchased more now than a year ago (Technomic)
  • Highly-profitable: With margins 20% greater than fountain drinks, frozen drinks are undeniable high-margin items. Depending on the frozen beverage program used, retailers can expect profit margins of 70-120% on frozen beverages.
  • Ease of operation: Both frozen drink dispensers and Granita machines are simple to set up and use, don’t require lengthy training, and have low maintenance and downtime. Posing little risk to bacteria buildups common in soft-serve and other dairy machines, owners need not worry about common health code headaches.
  • Low-cost ingredients: Primarily composed of water, flavoring, and ice, both granita and frozen drink machine ingredients are significantly lower than similar dairy products or soda fountains. The CO₂ found in carbonated beverages leads to even lower costs.
  • Small footprint: Granita and frozen drink machines take up relatively low counter space, with the opportunity to add multiple dispensing nozzles to maximize space. 

FBD Frozen. Frozen drink dispenser with multiple flavor options.

Key Differences

Outside of differences in appearance and functionality, comparing granita machines and frozen drink dispensers directly show clear contrasts. In this section, we will explore the key differences between frozen beverage machines and granitas.

Profitability

Both high-margin machines, granitas and frozen beverage dispensers can generate astonishing profits. Still, the two differ greatly in terms of upfront cost and long-term profitability.

Because they are built with higher quality materials and advanced technology, the cost to acquire a frozen carbonated beverage dispenser is much greater than that of granita machines. Frozen drink machines, however, also have much higher profitability than granitas.

Due to their design, frozen drink dispensers have a lower downtime, longer lifespan, and higher reliability, meaning they can produce more drinks for thirsty consumers.

FBD Frozen. Carbonated and uncarbonated frozen beverages compared side-by-side.

Differences in ingredients largely contribute to the gap in profitability as well. Open bowl systems like granitas use 60% water, 15% expansion, and 25% syrup to produce a drink; a comparable frozen carbonated beverage comprises 40% water, 50% CO₂, and 10% syrup. 

Overall, the drastically lower use of ingredients leads to greater profits for frozen drink dispensers.

Capacity

A frozen drink maker is only profitable if it has a product to sell – running out means lost revenue and lower profits. Having a machine with a high capacity ensures you will have enough product for peak times.

Standard bowl systems, like granitas, can only produce 48 cups of frozen beverages per hour. In peak times, this could mean significant lost revenue.

Compared, even a small frozen carbon beverage dispenser, like the FBD 37X, can pour 105 cups per hour – a potential sales increase of nearly 120%.

Versatility

One common strategy to growing frozen drink sales is to offer a variety of flavor combinations for your customers to choose from. 

Because granita machines produce their slush entirely in one large bowl, they are unable to produce a variety of flavors at the same time. This inability means that granitas are restricted to serving only one flavor of drink at a time.

Standard frozen carbonated beverage dispensers, however, do have the versatility necessary to produce multiple flavor combinations. Extremely popular with customers, having multiple flavors is one of the best ways to generate traffic and revenue. 

FBD Frozen. Woman using multi-flavor frozen drink machine.

FBD offers Multi-flavor units, which allow customers to choose one base flavor and up to 8 additional flavors. The 32 flavor combinations allow your customers to create the perfect drink for themselves.

Multi-flavor units feature a touchscreen interface, allowing customers to easily select their desired flavor combination. All FBD units have customizable interfaces, which can be personalized to your brand or program.

While combinations are endless, some favorite combinations are:

  • Frozen lemonade mixed with strawberry, mango, blueberry, or peach
  • Frozen coffees with a shot of mocha, caramel, hazelnut, or french vanilla
  • A frozen cocktail with a shot of their favorite flavor and spirit, such as Margaritas, Vodka Lemonade, Sangrias, or Jack & Coke

Durability and Maintenance

Slush and granita machines require hands-on, daily upkeep in order to avoid extended downtimes and health code violations. Even in their best-kept shape, granitas still only have an average lifespan of 3-5 years.

Alternatively, frozen drink dispensers are far easier frozen drink machines to maintain. Shipped from the factory sanitized, dispensers are immediately ready for use upon arrival. As long as you keep the water on, the syrup and CO₂ full, and your machine in operation you can pour frozen drinks for an entire year before any routine maintenance is necessary. Advanced technology makes it even easier to keep your machine running efficiently.

FBD’s frozen carbonated beverage machines are built with high-quality parts and materials, designed for 7-10 years of operation.

Sanitation and Food Safety

Because frozen drink dispensers use a closed, sealed system with an antibacterial high-acid product you can go a year without any routine cleaning or maintenance.

Making the process easy in all aspects, bag-in-box syrup packages makes refilling a simple and clean process. Machines don’t even need to take downtime to be refilled.

Bowls and granitas on the other hand are exposed, meaning they need to be emptied and cleaned daily in order to keep them sanitary. If not properly cleaned, the systems may pose food safety risks – leading to potential health code violations and heavy fines.

FBD Frozen. Calculate your return on investment with FBD's ROI calculator.

The Obvious Choice: Start Your Frozen Program Today

When it comes to profitability, ease-of-use, and nearly every other factor worth comparing, frozen drink dispensers are the clear best choice; granitas simply don’t compare.

Leading the industry for over 20 years, FBD offers a premium Frozen Beverage Program, which provides retailers with premium frozen drink dispensers. With over 532 unique equipment configurations, FBD’s program develops the perfect setup for your specific capacity and footprint needs, while fitting perfectly to your market.

Schedule a call today to have one of our experts help you:

  • Recommend the ideal products for your specific type of location
  • Identify the right equipment and customization
  • Estimate your ROI
  • Provide an operations implementation plan including labor, maintenance, and savings estimates

Get Started.