The owner of the Gristedes chain of grocery stores is in meltdown after ice cream thieves cleaned out his freezer cases.

Image of ice cream thieves robbing a Gristedes grocery store.
Image of ice cream thieves robbing a Gristedes grocery store. (Reuters)

John Catsimatidis, who owns the Gristedes chain of grocery stores, has said he is fed up with a ruthless gang cleaning out his freezer cases and selling luxurious cartons of ice cream to corner stores for a fraction of the price.

"It's a nice summer reward," he said.

"Our managers have been going through the refrigerator cases and they're wiped out.

"This gang of three to four people comes in and puts them in large shopping bags, they distract the manager and sell them.

"There are these gangs who go in with bags and load up with Haagan Dazs, $700 to $800 at a time," clearing out between 100-125 tubs.

"It's been happening all over New York City," he told the New York Post.

He claims that he has lost about $400,000 to the thieves in the past six months.

The reward comes with New York in the grip of a heatwave, expected to last at least until Sunday.

With the high humidity, it could feel as hot as 43 degrees Celsius, although actual temperatures will be lower.

Asked whether he thought his reward would have an impact, the self-made tycoon replied that maybe a corner store owner considering buying the ice cream would turn in the thieves.

The billionaire announced the reward on Twitter, saying "ice cream bandits are wreaking havoc on NYC supermarkets" – quoting a headline in the New York Post.

Police confirmed 250 complaints of ice cream theft and 130 arrests so far in 2016.

"We are working closely with the retailers to combat the thefts of ice cream," a spokesman said.

Catsimatidis, who immigrated to New York with his family from Greece as a baby, is valued at $3.4 billion by Forbes.

The 67-year-old philanthropist is also a Republican donor who ran unsuccessfully for mayor of New York in 2013.

Gristedes operates more than 30 stores throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn and suburban Westchester County.

Source: AFP