We examine here the efforts made by ice cream companies to address environmental and sustainability problems in an effort to produce a better, more environmentally friendly ice cream brands.
Indulging in a creamy scoop of ice cream on a sweltering summer day remains a cherished pastime for many. However, as our awareness of environmental challenges grows, so does our meticulous examination of the companies behind our favourite treats.
Therefore, large ice cream brands are increasingly under pressure to align their production processes with sustainability and environmental challenges. Consequently, large ice cream brands find themselves reevaluating their production processes and techniques to reduce their environmental footprint.
In this article, we’ll explore how some of the biggest names in the ice cream industry are addressing environmental and sustainability issues in their quest to serve up a better, more environment-friendly scoop.
Top 10 Environmental and sustainability challenges faced by ice cream companies
1. Reducing Water Usage
Water stands as a precious and invaluable resource, and its conservation is a global priority. Ice cream production typically demands substantial water resources, both for dairy farming and manufacturing process. Cognizant of this, major ice cream brands are implementing strategies to curtail thier water consumption. This includes repurposing or selling production waste and finding innovative ways to use “imperfect” or surplus fruit in their flavours.
Unilever, the parent company of renowned brands such as Ben & Jerry’s and Breyers, has embarked on an ambitious targets for water reduction. They aim to reduce water use in their factories by 40% per ton of production by 2030. One of their key strategies is the implementation of cutting-edge water recycling systems within their facilities. This not only contributes to water conservation but also yields dividends in terms of reduced energy consumption and decreased operational costs.
Nestlé, a stalwart in the ice cream industry, is also actively working to reduce water usage in its ice cream production. They have introduced water-efficient technologies in their manufacturing facilities and are diligently working on optimizing water management practices across their operations.
Nestlé is also actively working to reduce water usage in its ice cream production. They have introduced water-efficient technologies in their manufacturing facilities
2. Sustainable Sourcing of Ingredients
The ingredients used in ice cream, particularly dairy products, have major environmental consequences. Large ice cream producers are increasingly shifting to sustainable raw material sourcing practices.
Nestlé, which owns several ice cream brands, has been actively working to promote sustainable dairy farming. They have committed to sourcing 100% of their dairy ingredients from responsible and sustainable sources by 2025. This initiative includes supporting farmers in adopting more eco-friendly practices, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and conserving water.
Unilever promised to source all of its agricultural raw resources responsibly by 2030; they succeeded in this. For ice cream production, this means using responsibly sourced dairy and cocoa. Ben & Jerry’s, for example, is known for its commitment to fair trade ingredients and supporting dairy farms that adhere to high animal welfare standards.
Ben & Jerry’s set itself a goal to convert to ingredients that are non-GMO and Fairtrade Certified.
3. Energy Efficiency
With increasing demand for ice cream, production processes have become more energy-intensive, leading to higher energy costs and carbon emissions. Therefore, energy consumption is a major concern in ice cream production, with freezers, mixers, and other machinery tirelessly operating day and night. Brands are taking steps to minimize their energy use through various means.
Energy management systems (EMS) can help ice cream manufacturers monitor and control their energy consumption. Häagen-Dazs, for instance, has been making strides in this area. They are transitioning to cutting-edge, energy-efficient cryogenic storage units while simultaneously optimizing their manufacturing processes. These changes reduce energy consumption and lower greenhouse gas emissions, aligning with their commitment to being a more eco-friendly brand.
Unilever, a behemoth in the industry, is also working to reduce carbon emissions across its supply chain. They have set ambitious targets to achieve carbon neutrality for their ice cream production, including implementing state-of-the-art energy-efficient technologies in their manufacturing processes and transitioning towards renewable energy sources.
Unilever, a behemoth in the industry, have set ambitious targets to achieve carbon neutrality for their ice cream production.
4. Packaging Innovations
The issue of excessive packaging has emerged as a significant contributor to waste and environmental degradation. Ice cream companies are experimenting with eco-friendly packaging solutions to reduce their environmental impact.
In collaboration with Loop, Unilever is piloting a reusable packaging system currently undergoing trials in select markets. This initiative aims to reduce single-use plastic waste by offering ice cream in durable, reusable containers. After enjoying their ice cream, they are encouraged to return these containers to be cleaned and refilled, considerably reducing the need for disposable packaging.
Meanwhile, Mars, a notable player in the industry, is also diligently working on minimizing the environmental impact of its packaging. They have committed to making all their packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025, an ambitious undertaking to enhance their eco-friendly credentials.
Sacred Serve plant-based gelato uses a unique paperboard ice cream carton design that is now made from 100% virgin, food-safe paperboard and a food-safe, water-based barrier coating.
5. Reducing Food Waste
In the pursuit of sustainability within the ice cream industry, reducing food waste emerges as another key component. Prominent ice cream companies are actively engaged in minimizing waste at every stage of production.
Ben & Jerry’s, known for its socially conscious practices, has been working to address food waste in creative ways. They have implemented initiatives like donating surplus ice cream to food banks. Additionally, they are using unsellable brownies and cookies from their production process in their popular ice cream flavours.
These resourceful endeavors not only underscore their dedication to sustainability but also demonstrate their conscientiousness towards the broader community.
6. Supporting Sustainable Agriculture
Numerous ice cream brands heavily rely on ingredients such as cocoa and vanilla sourced from regions with potential sustainability challenges. Brands are collaborating with farmers and organizations dedicated to fostering environmentally responsible practices in the production of these essential ingredients.
Mars, the parent company of Dove, has been working to make the cocoa industry more sustainable. They’ve partnered with various organizations to promote responsible cocoa farming practices, reduce deforestation, and improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers, thus effecting a positive change within the industry.
General Mills, another prominent name in the sector, is working to ensure that any palm oil used in their ice cream production is sourced sustainably to prevent deforestation and habitat destruction. This stance serves to forestall deforestation and the simultaneous destruction of habitats, thereby mitigating the ecological impact of their operations.
Meanwhile, Häagen-Dazs has been a leader in raising awareness about the importance of bees and pollinators in agriculture. They have initiated campaigns and research projects to support bee populations, vital for pollinating the fruits and nuts integral to Häagen-Dazs’s delectable ice cream creations, thereby underscoring their dedication to preserving taste and ecological harmony.
Häagen-Dazs has been a leader in raising awareness about the importance of bees and pollinators in agriculture. They have initiated campaigns and research projects to support bee populations
7. Alternative Ingredients
Advancements in ingredient sourcing have paved the way for ice cream brands to explore alternative options that are more sustainable than traditional dairy.
Ice cream producers are now offering locally-produced, vegan, organic ingredients in their ice cream brands. The use of vegetable milk as an ice cream ingredient is becoming increasingly common, since its carbon footprint is lower than that of dairy products.
Take Halo Top, for instance. They have introduced a range of dairy-free ice creams made from ingredients like coconut milk. This innovative approach not only caters to lactose-intolerant consumers but also reduces the environmental impact typically linked with conventional dairy farming practices.
Nestlé is also focusing on simplifying ingredient lists while maintaining the tastes. The newest changes vary across more than 100 products, with examples including the removal of artificial colors and flavors, high fructose corn syrup and GMO ingredients. Other noteworthy accomplishments include the use of fresh milk from cows not treated with rBST, the addition of more real fruit or fruit juice and a reduction in sugar by an average of 11 percent on select products.
Nestlé is also focusing on simplifying ingredient lists while maintaining the tastes, with examples including the removal of artificial colors and flavors, high fructose corn syrup and GMO ingredients.
8. Transparent Sustainability Reporting
In today’s consumer landscape, transparency has evolved into a critical consideration for consumers seeking to make well-informed choices regarding the products they purchase. A prime example of this paradigm shift can be observed in ice cream industry, where large ice cream companies have taken proactive steps to embrace transparency and sustainability.
For example, Unilever, through its annual sustainability report, unveiled a comprehensive overview of its various aspects of its business operations, including ice cream brands, such as the Ben & Jerry’s. This report not only showcases Unilever’s dedication to reducing its environmental impact but also underscores its commitment to achieving sustainability goals. It’s a testament to the brand’s unwavering dedication to both quality ice cream and a sustainable future for our planet.
9. Consumer Education
Consumers play a vital role in driving sustainability in the ice cream industry. By supporting brands that prioritize sustainability and demand more eco-friendly options, consumers can influence the direction of the market. Choosing products with certifications like Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, or organic can also contribute to positive change.
In addition to making internal changes, ice cream brands are also taking steps to educate consumers about the environmental impact of their choices. Breyers, for example, provides information on its website about its sustainability efforts and encourages consumers to make eco-conscious choices. They emphasize the importance of responsible sourcing and energy-efficient manufacturing.
10. Collaborations and Certifications
In the ice cream industry, many ice cream companies are actively forging partnerships and pursuing certifications to underscore their commitment to sustainability and responsible business practices.
Take, for example, the iconic duo of Ben & Jerry’s. This cherished ice cream brand proudly carries the esteemed title of a certified B Corporation. This certification serves as a powerful testament to Ben & Jerry’s commitment to the balance between profit-making and social and environmental responsibility. It’s not just about churning out delicious scoops of ice cream; it’s about doing so with a conscience.
Beyond their B Corporation status, Ben & Jerry’s takes it a step further by actively collaborating with a diverse array of organizations dedicated to addressing critical global issues.
Ben and Jerry’s is a Certified B Corporation. B Corporation is recognized as the highest standard for social corporate responsibility.
In conclusion, the ice cream industry, much like many other sectors, is responding to the growing relevance of sustainability and environmental responsibility. Prominent ice cream companies are implementing various steps to reduce their environmental footprint, from conserving water and sourcing sustainable ingredients to developing innovative packaging solutions. As consumer awareness continues to rise, these initiatives not only benefit the environment but also elevate the image and allure of these iconic brands.
However, challenges persist, and the industry has ample room for further innovation and improvement. The future of ice cream production is likely to be shaped by a combination of consumer demand, regulatory changes, and ongoing efforts by manufacturers to find even more sustainable solutions. In the end, as the industry continues to evolve, we can all enjoy our favourite frozen treats with a little less guilt and a little more sustainability in mind.
The future of ice cream is not only delicious but also sustainable.