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How sunshine drives sales and powers our ice cream business


The sun doesn’t just drive our ice cream sales; it also helps power our business in a sustainable way. Find out how solar solutions integrated into our warehouses, fleets and sales kiosks are making energy savings, reducing emissions and contributing to our climate goals.

Solar panels at Izmir in Turkey that help power our ice cream warehouse and electric commercial vans

When it comes to energy usage, ice cream’s cold chain is a hot topic. It takes a lot of power to make, distribute and keep our brands stored in refrigerated cabinets – factors which have seen up to 20% of Unilever’s greenhouse gas emissions come from ice cream.

Until now.

Discover how our Ice Cream teams are helping us lower our emissions and make financial savings by harnessing the power of the sun.

Using solar power to run our warehouses

In Turkey, the average day sees 6.37 hours of sunshine and our ice cream facility in Izmir is harnessing that energy and putting it to good use.

Our temperature-controlled warehouse, where our ice cream brands are weighed, sorted and packed, consumes 2 million kWh of electricity/year.

Now, thanks to an on-site solar power plant, 42% (980,000 kWh/year) of that energy is provided by the power of the sun.

And that’s not the only benefit. This renewable source also saves €190,000/year on energy costs.

Driving down emissions with electric refrigerated vehicles

Across Brazil, Turkey and Mexico, our brands are distributed using commercial electric vans specifically designed for urban ice cream deliveries. Pilots are also being run throughout the US, China, Thailand, Chile and Uruguay.

Most vans provide end-to-end green transportation, charged by electricity generated from solar panels on our warehouses which cuts the fleet’s CO₂ emissions too.

Larger scale, fully electric, zero-emission refrigerated trucks are being trialled too. In the Benelux, they make up 60% of our ice cream fleet with the potential to save up to 25 tonnes of CO₂ per truck per year.

Using innovative points of sale to combat power outages

Unilever owns, freely loans and maintains 3 million ice cream freezers globally. These cabinets need to be kept consistently cool, at temperatures as low as -18°C.

In countries with daily power outages, the chances of stock spoilage are high. Once again, the power of the sun provides an innovative energy solution.

As part of wider sustainable initiatives, which include energy-efficient cabinets, solar ice cream carts and solar energy farms, Wall’s has developed dual usage price boards.

As well as advertising ice creams outside stores, these boards are also solar storage units.

Each one is equipped with double solar panels, an internal battery and an automatic switcher. If the retailer’s power goes off, its battery automatically switches on.

Prototype price boards have been trialled in Pakistan. These can power an ice cream freezer for around six hours per charge and offer shopkeepers a sustainable source of clean energy and reassurance that stock and sales won’t melt away.

Future- forward retail units powered by renewable energy

In Turkey, the Wall’s team has designed, built and successfully opened five retail units completely powered by the sun.

Each kiosk, known as a Happiness Station, runs two freezers and two drink cabinets using six solar panels, one inverter and a selection of lithium batteries.

These retail units generate an average of 20,000 kW of energy per point/year and provide retailers with an annual saving of up to 16% on energy costs.

This energy self-sufficiency also means locations which don’t have electricity access, such as national parks, can now host a kiosk. They’ve been so successful with retailers and consumers that five more units are planned for this year.

Making energy and sales while the sun shines

Ice cream consumption is at its highest when the sun is shining. By creating and using solar energy in our storage facilities, transport and retail spaces, we aim to move closer to syncing demand and usage to become energy self-sufficient and emission-free.

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