81% of global consumers in a Nielsen study said that it is very or extremely important that companies implement programs to help the environment. By now, most of us understand that shaping a more sustainable food industry is essential for ensuring a safe, nutritious, and consistent food supply into the future.
The global ice cream market, with its valuation of $113.8bn USD in 2021, is a significant industry of interest within our food industry as a whole with an important role to play in the quest for environmental sustainability. Making ice cream more sustainable is something that many brands, suppliers, and manufacturers within the industry are working on improving with each new innovation and discovery.
In the spirit of igniting collaborative change, we have been scouting the market to discover some of the most influential sustainability initiatives making an impact in the ice cream and frozen dessert industry today. What follows is a non-exhaustive list of our findings from a multitude of different countries worldwide. Our hope is that it inspires you to do the same or similar, no matter your size, your market share, or the size of your team. We can and we must all work on shaping our food future for the better!
UPCYCLING TO REDUCE FOOD WASTE
For those unfamiliar with the concept of upcycling, it focuses on the idea of using everything you have available and doing more with less to work on reducing food waste. A notable 8% of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are said to come from food loss and waste alone, according to Upcycled Food.org.
Upcycled foods are those that otherwise would not have been produced for human consumption. For instance, Takay, an Ecuadorian ice cream start-up creates their products with fruit that has been rejected by sellers for aesthetic reasons. By taking advantage of every aspect of the ingredients used, food brands and manufacturers can work together to not only reduce food waste and help fight climate change, but also maximise their own profits by leveraging ingredients that would have otherwise contributed to waste and turning them into sellable products.
Earlier this year, we highlighted vegan wholesaler, Renewal Mills who partnered with Salt & Straw to create an upcycled dairy-free frozen dessert. The collaboration used upcycled organic okara flour produced from soybean pulp which is generated during soy milk processing but would otherwise be discarded.
Takay and Salt & Straw are doing fantastic work in making the most of the ingredients available to them in the way that best aligns with their business. Can you think of any ingredients discarded during your manufacturing processes or throughout your supply chain that can be upcycled?
Upcycled Food has a list of more food and beverage businesses that work with upcycled foods that you can gain even more inspiration from. Find them here.
Image by Food Ingredients First
PICKING THE BEST PACKAGING
When you think about the packaging your product is currently presented in, is there any way that it could become more sustainable? There are so many sustainable packaging solutions available nowadays including paper-based, upcycled variations, and other plastic-free alternatives, with more and more being developed as we type. If you are looking to improve the sustainability of your business, your choice of packaging is likely a good starting point.
Your product’s packaging is something that may change many times during its lifespan. Take Ben & Jerry’s, for example, whose mission is to make their packaging 100% free of petroleum-based plastic and completely reusable, compostable, or recyclable by 2025.
Plant-based gelato company Sacred Serve (pictured) also sells their products in a 100%-recyclable, plastic-free ice cream carton that is biodegradable and compostable.
Ice cream packaging manufacturers are constantly updating their solutions to include more environmentally-responsible and sustainable options where possible, so that brands can choose the best option that fulfils their packaging promise to consumers and also aligns with their sustainability values. For instance, Planet Foods, a Greek plant-based frozen dessert brand was the first to incorporate an eco-friendly sugar-cane packaging to align with their carbon-negative product range.
One of Innodelice’s ecosystem partners, IncrEDIBLE Eats, built their business on sustainable initiatives from the very beginning with their creation of edible cutlery to do their part in the reduction of plastic waste. The company is now a member of Impact Collective, a group of brands who are committed to taking immediate action towards neutralising their plastic footprint.
“We are saving space in landfills and recycling plants, reducing the amount of single-use plastics, and also adding extra value and nutrients for the end-consumer.” - Dinesh Tadepalli, Co-Founder of Incredible Eats.
They have worked to offset an incredible 200% of their emissions and plastic footprint since their launch. Their paper packaging is also FSC-Certified and Rainforest Alliance Certified. Have a look through their sustainability page online to learn more about how they create a positive impact.
SHAPING A SUSTAINABLE SUPPLY CHAIN
The global ice cream industry is a large and diverse one that makes tracking and retaining control over sustainability measures a difficult task. This is why it’s important for each business along the ice cream and frozen dessert supply chain, from farm to spoon, to consider their actions and think outside the box when it comes to making more sustainable decisions and creating a positive impact.
For example, brands like Jude’s in the UK became Britain's first carbon negative ice cream company. This means that they remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they emit through their entire supply chain. They achieve this through a variety of initiatives including tree-planting, opting for renewable energy sources, and implementing water and energy recycling processes.
Unilever in Germany has been testing the possibility of using warmer ice cream freezers as a way of reducing their energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The current freezer temperature standard in the industry is -18°C, but Unilever are running pilots to trial freezers set to -12°C, a move which, if successful, will be implemented in a phased approach that could reinvent global industry standards.
Eurovanille, a natural vanilla supplier to the ice cream industry, and part of the Innodelice ecosystem, are very conscious of their impact on the planet and have been members of the Sustainable Vanilla Initiative (SVI) since 2016, among other groups, to ensure they contribute to the vanilla sector’s sustainability and responsible sourcing practices.
“We are committed at a social, environmental and economic level to develop effective partnership programmes that benefit all the partners in our supply chain. We work with SVI to provide innovative solutions in the production and traceability of natural vanilla in a sustainable manner so we can help improve the vanilla producers’ income and the sustainability of their businesses as well.” - Fanny Grymonprez, Eurovanille
We hope that these ideas ignite those who have yet to start their sustainability initiatives. If you are interested in learning more on sustainability in the ice cream industry, we recommend starting with this 2019 study on the environmental impacts of ice cream that considers the effects of the ice cream supply chain on areas like energy consumption and ozone depletion.
Do you have a sustainable solution you would like to share with the ice cream industry? Or maybe you are looking to implement more sustainable initiatives and would like to collaborate with others who can help you? If so, reach out to Andrea at Innodelice on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will see how we can help!
Founded by former executives in the Ice Cream industry, INNODELICE aims to create a worldwide ecosystem of solutions within the frozen dessert industry. Thanks to the relationships fostered by INNODELICE, manufacturers, brands, importers, distributors and suppliers can discover, buy and sell solutions to GROW their business. These solutions include co-manufactured and branded products as well as innovative and competitive ingredients, packaging and services. Our collaboration model generates lower costs and fewer risks for our participating partners while optimising their time to market. To learn more about INNODELICE, contact Andrea MONTREUIL (email@example.com) or visit www.innodelice.com.