Unilever has granted a free non-exclusive license for 12 reformulation patents to the ice cream industry. This initiative follows two successful pilots aimed at optimising its last-mile ice cream freezer cabinets.
Unilever’s decision to provide access to these patents is poised to transform the ice cream industry by enabling manufacturers to reformulate products that remain stable at a warmer freezer temperature of -12°C, a departure from the current standard of -18°C. The company anticipates that this collaborative effort will lead to more energy-efficient freezer cabinets on a global scale.
Last year, Unilever unveiled its ambition to elevate the temperature of its last-mile ice cream freezer cabinets while maintaining quality and consumer experience.
Extensive research at Colworth – Unilever’s global ice cream R&D centre – and two successful pilots in Germany have confirmed an impressive energy reduction of approximately 25% per freezer cabinet at the warmer temperature of -12°C. This not only benefits the environment but also makes the freezers more cost-effective to operate.
Andy Sztehlo, chief R&D officer for ice cream at Unilever, said: “We’re pleased to take this next step in our work to increase the temperature of our last mile ice cream freezer cabinets. By granting a free non-exclusive license to these 12 reformulation patents, we hope our peers and partners from across the ice cream sector will benefit and work to tackle emissions across the industry.”
He continued: “We believe through collaboration, we can reduce the cold chain’s impact on the environment, whilst continuing to deliver the great quality ice cream products our consumers love”.
Emissions from retail ice cream freezers currently account for 10% of Unilever’s value chain greenhouse gas footprint. This initiative aligns with Unilever’s Climate Transition Action Plan, outlining the company’s roadmap to achieve net zero emissions across its value chain by 2039.
The plan also includes a science-based target to halve the emissions impact of its products on a consumer use basis by 2030, against a 2010 baseline.
Reducing cabinet energy consumption through innovative technical components, exploring renewable electricity programmes and progressing towards ‘warming up’ freezer cabinets are integral aspects of Unilever’s strategy for ice cream freezers.
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