GLOBAL – Unilever, a global fast-moving consumer goods company, has granted a free, non-exclusive license for 12 reformulation patents to competitors in the ice cream industry.

This initiative comes on the heels of successful pilot programs that allowed ice cream freezer cabinets to operate at a warmer temperature without compromising taste or quality.

Traditionally, ice cream is stored at a frigid -18°C in retail settings. Unilever, seeking to reduce energy consumption, has developed new recipes that can tolerate higher temperatures.

Research conducted at Unilever’s Colworth R&D center, followed by successful pilots in Germany, demonstrated that reformulated ice cream remains stable at a warmer temperature of -12°C, achieving energy reduction of approximately 20–30% in the cold chain.

Unilever, which owns and maintains three million ice cream freezers worldwide, accounting for 10% of its value chain footprint, has decided to not only adopt the new formula for its own products but also share its patented reformulation recipes with industry peers.

By doing so, Unilever aims to encourage the production of more energy-efficient freezer cabinets across the ice cream manufacturing sector.

A study by the FMCG company revealed that consumers are increasingly demanding sustainable products, and brands are expected to play a proactive role in addressing broader societal problems, including climate change.

Therefore, Unilever’s move aligns with this trend, turning competitors into allies in the collective fight against environmental challenges. By opening up its patents, Unilever will enable others to build on its research without the initial development costs.

“The sharing of patents is not only an environmental win but also a strategic move in fostering collaborative innovation within the industry,” the company noted.

“Tackling urgent and complex issues like climate change requires collective action, and collaboration on an industry-wide scale can lead to faster innovation cycles and the cross-pollination of ideas.”

Unilever’s approach suggested that companies contributing significantly to collective challenges may emerge as the most influential.

“Instead of solely competing on product features or pricing, brands can now contend on positive impact and collaborative innovation.”

Unveiling its plans to increase the temperature of its ‘last mile’ ice cream freezer cabinets last November, Unilever has now taken a significant step toward greener practices, aligning with its Climate Transition Action Plan.

The plan outlines Unilever’s ambition to achieve net zero across its value chain by 2039, marking a commitment to long-term sustainability and environmental responsibility.