NexAir forecasts that its sales of dry ice this year will grow 16%, but not because of the well-publicized Pfizer vaccine that must be shipped and stored in ultra-cold storage temperatures.

Like the vaccine that requires storage at minus-70 degrees, the growing demand for nexAir’s dry ice is related to COVID-19.

But the dry ice nexAir makes at its plants in Millington and Brandon, Mississippi, is in even more demand by companies that ship other products, especially perishable foods.

More people are social distancing, buying online and having their purchases delivered to their front doors. So much so, nexAir is studying ways to expand capacity at its Brandon or local plant, nexAir Carbonic at 5808 Old Millington Road in the Woodstock community.

The company’s main business is selling atmospheric gases and welding supplies. NexAir employs about 800 people in 80 sites spread across 10 states. Dry ice comprises a small portion of total revenue.

But the company had expected to sell a lot of dry ice for those Pfizer vaccine shipments.

Based on all the inquiries from potential shipping customers, the Memphis-based company even established a COVID-19 task force. Members of different nexAir departments met every Monday morning to ensure all facets of the company were coordinated for the effort.

“Our phone was ringing off the wall about dry ice for vaccines,” recalls Steve Atkins, nexAir’s executive vice president.

Mainly, those vaccine-related phone calls involved nexAir fielding questions and educating potential customers about dry ice. But most of the calls never transitioned into sales orders.

One reason involved the load sizes nexAir can deliver. The company is geared to deliver truckload quantities, from about 600 pounds up to about 1,100 pounds.

Some of the requests were for much smaller deliveries to clinics and hospitals.

“We don’t have the distribution capability to deliver to small-end users,” Atkins said.

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