Unilever is launching two pilots to trial warmer ice cream freezer cabinets, aiming to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by 20–30 per cent per freezer while ensuring the same ice cream quality and consumer experience.
The two pilots, which kicked off last month in Germany with a second pilot to follow in Indonesia next year, are the first step in 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, hoping to drive industry-wide change.
Following the successful 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. It is hoped that other ice cream manufacturers will follow.
“These pilots will provide valuable information on how much energy we can save and how our ice cream products perform in warmer freezers to ensure we deliver the same great-tasting ice cream,” Unilever president Ice Cream Matt Close 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. Unilever’s Climate Transition Action Plan sets out the company’s roadmap to reduce these emissions, including reducing cabinet energy consumption through innovating 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 step that Unilever is taking to reach its ambitious climate targets which include zero emissions from its operations (scope one and two) 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.