Unilever has launched two pilots to trial warmer ice cream freezer cabinets to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by 20 to 30 per cent per freezer.
Unilever is aiming to achieve this while ensuring the same ice-cream quality and consumer experience.
The first pilot kicked off last month in Germany with the second pilot to follow in Indonesia next year.
It is the first step to exploring and understanding the product performance of ice-cream and the energy consumption of freezers at warmer -12°C temperatures, in real life conditions.
With a current industry standard in many markets of -18°C, Unilever’s ambition is to move the temperature of its retail sales freezers to -12°C to improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in a move which it hopes will drive industry-wide change.
Following the completion of the first two pilots Unilever will work to ‘warm up’ its last mile freezer cabinets in a phased approach.
Unilever will start in markets where its last mile freezer cabinet carbon footprint is highest, to achieve the maximum reductive impact on its own carbon emissions. Unilever hopes other ice cream manufacturers will follow.
Unilever ice-cream president, Matt Close, said these pilots will provide valuable information on how much energy the company can save.
“We can also find out how our ice cream products perform in warmer freezers to ensure we deliver the same great-tasting ice cream,” he said.
“We’re actively seeking to collaborate with partners from across the ice cream and frozen food sectors to drive industry-wide change, so the collective positive impact is far greater.”
Emissions from retail ice cream freezers account for 10 per cent of Unilever’s value chain greenhouse gas footprint.
The company’s Climate Transition Action Plan sets out a roadmap to reduce these emissions including cuts to cabinet energy consumption through innovation of the main technical components (e.g., compressors), exploring programmes that will enable the freezers to be powered by renewable electricity, and working towards ‘warming up’ the cold chain.
‘Warming up’ the cold chain is just one of the steps Unilever is taking to reach its ambitious climate targets which include zero emissions from its operations (scope 1 & 2) by 2030, halving the full value chain emissions of its products (per consumer use) by 2030, and achieving net zero emissions across Unilever’s value chain by 2039.