The demand for local and direct delivery options remains. In addition, increasing calls for the food and beverage industry to rethink the way products are sourced, shipped and stored have now put ice cream storage in the spotlight.
Simultaneously exploring new ice cream delivery and storage ideas offers manufacturers the opportunity to experiment, research and develop new ways to meet consumer needs.
Ice cream brands are trying to use unfamiliar spaces, expand into new geographic areas and ice cream categories, and find proactive ways to combat climate change to meet growing expectations of convenience, accessibility and sustainability.
Easier access to ice
The shift to convenient and accessible ice cream delivery has resulted in a brand partnership seeking to leverage untapped resources to reach a broader consumer base and offer frozen food distribution direct to you.
Indian frozen food maker ITC Master Chef partnered with Lotte’s Havmor Ice Cream brand to develop its business model with its ice cream truck. Where consumers have traditionally had to visit a grocery store or kiosk, this initiative made frozen goods available at a nearby location, with direct home delivery available upon request.
The ice cream delivery model draws on market research agency Mintel’s research into consumer trends, which suggests consumers expect products and services to be delivered directly to them, wherever they are.
“The pandemic has amplified the need for options close to home and at your doorstep for homebound consumers who have seen a decline in out-of-home indulgences.”Rushikesh Aravkar, associate director of Consumer Reports South APAC (India and Thailand) for food and beverage, told Mintel.
“This has increased demand for faster delivery and easier access, a trend that is likely to continue given the immense convenience it offers consumers.”added Aravkar.
Use of unused infrastructure
Attention now turns to whether brands around the world are exploring ice cream truck delivery options. “Ice cream truck delivery is a creative way to use existing infrastructure for one category to solve a problem in another category,”said Aravkar. “It fitted well with this application”,commented Aravkar regarding the partnership between ITC Master Chef and Havmor.
The frozen food category is still a new and emerging category in the Indian market and consumer acceptance is growing. According to Mintel research, 32% of Indians said they increased their consumption of frozen vegetarian snacks and 26% of frozen non-vegetarian snacks during the Covid-19 lockdown.
“So we can say that consumers are warming to the concept of frozen food.”informed Aravkar. However, to capitalize on this opportunity, Aravkar continued, frozen food brands must address the logistical challenge of the limited number of retailers with freezers hampering deeper market penetration. It becomes important for brands in this space to build a loyal customer base by creating awareness and improving accessibility by reaching consumers on their doorstep.
“The delivery of the ice cream truck serves both purposes: awareness and accessibility”,detailed aravkar. “This channel has hyper-local penetration, is consumer familiar, delivered with mobile freezers, and helps deliver new products to consumers without leaving the comfort of their homes, enabling discovery and experimentation of this emerging category.”
A warmer way to store ice cream
British multinational consumer goods group Unilever is exploring another element of the ice cream business: storage. In May 2022, Unilever announced the launch of two pilot projects testing ice cream freezer units at a higher temperature to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining quality and experience.
“These pilot projects will provide valuable information on how much energy we can save and how our ice cream products perform in warmer freezers to ensure we deliver the same great tasting ice cream.”‘ said Matt Close, President of Ice Cream at Unilever. “We actively seek to work with partners across the ice cream and frozen food industries to drive industry-wide change so that the collective positive impact is far greater.”Added close.
Improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions
The brand launches these two pilots with the aim of reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by around 20-30% per freezer. Unilever wants to study and understand the product performance of its ice cream and freezer energy consumption at a warmer -12°C. The company’s goal is to improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions along the cold chain.
Unilever started the first pilot project in Germany in May 2022 and a second pilot project is to follow in Indonesia in 2023. Upon completion of the first two pilots, and if successful, the company will work to “warm up” its freezer for the last mile. Closets in a phased approach. It will launch in markets where the carbon footprint is highest in the last mile of the freezer to reduce carbon emissions as much as possible.
The company hopes these pilots will drive industry-wide transformation and is actively seeking to work with partners in the ice cream and frozen food industries to enable that transformation.
Influencing ice cream storage
Unilever reports that the current industry standard in many markets is a temperature of -18 °C. The company hopes to lower the temperature of its retail freezers to -12°C to improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Laboratory studies by Unilever show that increasing the temperature of its freezers could reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by around 20-30% per freezer. These pilot projects will provide the company with valuable information on how much energy it can save and how its ice cream products will perform in real-world conditions.
Emissions from retail ice cream freezers account for 10% of Unilever’s value chain greenhouse gas footprint. In 2021, Unilever’s Climate Transition Action Plan outlined its roadmap to reduce emissions, including reducing cabinet energy use by developing its key technical components (such as compressors) and researching programs that enable freezers to run on renewable electricity are operated and function to “warm up” the cold chain.
Achieve optimal quality and consumer experience
In exploring new storage conditions, Unilever strived to develop its new freezers while maintaining the same quality and consumer experience. Product quality is our top priority, the brand relay. As a result, Unilever wants its consumers to have the same great experience eating their ice cream even after raising the temperature of its freezers for last-mile sales.
For the German pilot, Unilever will test its ice cream without reformulating, as researchers found in their R&D lab tests that it is inherently resilient at a higher temperature.
However, for the Indonesian pilot, the vast majority of the Seru portfolio will be reformulated as the original products were found too soft at -12°C in the company’s R&D assessments. The redesign of the Seru portfolio ensures products remain stable and offer an uncompromised consumer experience, Unilever announced.