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Unilever to trial 'warmer' ice cream freezers to slash CO2 and energy use

ice cream in freezer

Image via Shutterstock/MM Stock.

Unilever is to trial the use of ice cream freezers that operate at slightly warmer temperatures in the hope that cutting down on energy use could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by around 20 to 30 percent per freezer, the consumer goods giant announced this week.

Starting with a trial in Germany next month followed by a second in Indonesia next year, the firm said it aimed to explore the impact on its ice cream products and energy performance of operating its freezers at minus-12 degrees Celsius in real-world conditions, rather than the current industry average standard of minus-18 C.

If successful, Unilever said it would work to gradually "warm up" its last-mile freezer cabinets across various markets worldwide, starting with countries and regions where its carbon footprint from cooling operations is highest in order to "achieve the maximum reductive impact" on its CO2.

Emissions from retail ice cream freezers account for 10% of Unilever's value chain greenhouse gas footprint.

Matt Close, president of Unilever ice cream business, said that if the trials proved effective at cutting down on emissions, energy use and costs, while ensuring the quality of ice cream products is not affected, then other ice cream manufacturers could follow suit.

"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," he explained. "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 percent of Unilever's value chain greenhouse gas footprint, it said.

The firm is therefore seeking to reduce these emissions through various efforts to cut down on energy consumption using technical innovations, renewable electricity and exploring whether it is possible to "warm up" its cold chain of frozen and chilled products.

The latest pilot forms part of Unilever's overarching target to achieve net zero emissions across its operations and energy use by 2030, and to deliver net zero across its full value chain — known as Scope 3 emissions — by 2039.

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