Unilever is attempting to use warmer ice cream freezers that will reduce energy and greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining the quality of the product.
The company is launching two pilot programs for the warmer freezers by studying the impacts on energy consumption and the ice cream in freezers with temperatures at minus-12 degrees Celsius compared with the industry standard of minus-18 degrees Celsius. Unilever says its goal of the program is to reduce the energy use and greenhouse gas emissions of each freezer by 20% to 30%.
If the pilots are successful, Unilever will work to increase the temperature of its freezers in a phased approach, starting with markets where its freezer carbon footprints are the highest. That will help the company achieve the best results regarding its own carbon emissions reductions, Unilever says.
Unilever’s ice cream brands include Ben & Jerry’s, Wall’s and Magnum, and the company says emissions from retail ice cream freezers account for 10% of its value chain greenhouse gas footprint. Part of the company’s sustainable transition targets include reducing those emissions by lowering freezer energy consumption with enhanced technology of technical components, looking at ways to power the units with renewable electricity and working to “warm up the cold chain.”
The latter is one of the steps Unilever says it is taking to reach zero Scope 1 and 2 emissions and cut the value chain emissions of its products in half by 2030. The company plans to reach net zero emissions across its operations by 2039.
Unilever hopes the freezer effort will lead to changes across the industry.
“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,” says Matt Close, president of ice cream for Unilever.
Refrigeration is one of the highest energy consumers in commercial settings, according to the Energy Information Administration. That has led to the use tools that can manage their energy use without impacting food and product safety, efficiency efforts by grocery retailers and increasing sustainability in cold transport.
Unilever has been active in sustainable efforts recently, including sustainably sourcing of palm fruit, waste from biomaterials from its production and using regenerative agriculture in its tea production. The first ice cream freezer pilot will take place in Germany in May, with the second set for Indonesia next year.