Unilever is launching two pilots to trial warmer ice cream freezer cabinets with an aim of reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 20% to 30% per freezer, while ensuring the same ice cream quality and consumer experience.

The pilots, one kicking off this spring in Germany with a second 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 (10.4°F) temperatures in real-life conditions.

With a current industry standard in many markets of -18°C (0°F), 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 that it hopes will drive industry-wide change.

Following the completion of the first two pilots and if successful, 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.

Matt Close, president of ice cream at Unilever, said, “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. 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% 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 innovation of the main technical components (e.g., compressors), exploring programs 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 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.