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Unilever seeks to warm up the cold chain

UK: Unilever is conducting trials to witness the feasibility of running ice cream freezer cabinets at higher temperatures to improve energy efficiency.

The two pilots, one currently being conducted in Germany and another to follow in Indonesia next year, will seek to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by around 20-30% per freezer, while ensuring the same ice cream quality.

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, a move which it hopes will drive industry-wide change.

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

“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,” commented Unilever’s president of ice cream Matt Close.

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, such as compressors, exploring programmes that will enable the freezers to be powered by renewable electricity, and working towards ‘warming up’ the cold chain.

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