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Cool move

24 November, 2023

In a refreshing move, Unilever has shaken up the ice cream industry by announcing that it will grant a free non-exclusive license to industry peers for 12 reformulation patents. The goal? To propel the sector towards energy-efficient freezing by warming up its last mile ice cream freezer cabinets from -18° to -12°C.

Unilever’s research at Colworth, its Global Ice Cream R&D Centre, and successful pilots in Germany demonstrated a remarkable 25% reduction in energy consumption per freezer cabinet by operating at the warmer temperature of -12° C – all by reformulating ice cream products that remain stable at this warmer temperature. This not only benefits the environment but also makes these freezers more cost-effective.

What’s more noteworthy is Unilever’s commitment to collaboration over competition. By sharing these patents with other ice cream manufacturers, Unilever aims to tackle emissions industry-wide. Emissions from retail ice cream freezers constitute 10% of Unilever’s greenhouse gas footprint. So if you were to add up all the big ice-cream players, sharing and scaling this approach could make a real difference. The initiative also aligns with Unilever’s Climate Transition Action Plan, striving for net-zero emissions across its value chain by 2039.

Unilever’s move sets an example of a business recognizing the deeper challenge of climate impact and actively sharing intellectual property for the greater good. And whilst we have focused on Unilever, Chivas Brothers has also recently made its design and implementation insights ‘open source’, in its deployment of efficient heat recovery technologies within the whisky distillation process.

This kind of collaborative spirit marks a significant stride towards achieving collective sustainability goals and a mindset that others can gain and learn from.

By Bertie Bateman

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