Access to these patents will support the wider industry with the reformulation of their existing ice cream products so that they can remain stable at a temperature of -12 degrees. The current standard is -18 degrees.
The move comes after the group conducted research at its Global Ice Cream R&D Centre and two pilot tests in Germany. Researchers found that increasing the temperature of its last mile freezer cabinets by 6 degrees did not impact the integrity of the reformulated products and translated to a 25% energy reduction per freezer.
Unilever said that the emissions from retail ice cream freezers account for 10% of its value chain greenhouse gas footprint. The group Climate Transition Action Plan has set out a roadmap to achieve net zero emissions across its value chain by 2039, and a science-based target to halve the emissions impact of its products on a consumer use basis by 2030, against a 2010 baseline.
In terms of ice cream freezers, Unilever is also looking at reducing energy consumption through technical innovation relating to the freezers themselves, while also exploring the potential for the use of more renewable electricity. Unilever owns ice cream brands such as Wall's, Ben & Jerry's and Magnum.
Reflecting on the decision, 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. We believe through collaboration, we can reduce the cold chain’s impact on the environment."