Skip to content

Unilever Global Change location

World’s first ice cream factory to join prestigious WEF Lighthouse Network

Unilever’s ice cream factory in TaiCang, China the first of its kind to be recognised as an ‘Advanced 4th Industrial Revolution Lighthouse’ by the World Economic Forum today.

Cornetto's in a factory

London – Today, Unilever announced that its ice cream factory in TaiCang, China, has joined the Lighthouse Network, the World Economic Forum’s community of manufacturing sites. Lighthouse sites adopt and deploy Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies to transform business operations through innovations, sustainable practices and maximised efficiency. The TaiCang site is the third Unilever factory to achieve this status.

The site at TaiCang has been operating since 1996 and now produces two million ice creams a day, for brands such as Magnum, Cornetto and Wall’s. This is the equivalent to 60 million litres of ice cream each year. The factory’s adoption of revolutionary technologies, such as digital smart machines and AI, has resulted in increased speed and agility and paved the way for Lighthouse status.

Digital and environmental breakthroughs

The technology used in TaiCang has enabled the factory team to become more agile and efficient, keeping up with fast-paced consumer demand following the unprecedented boom in e-commerce. Average changeover time of a production line (switching from Magnum vanilla to chocolate, for example) has been reduced from eight hours to just nine minutes. In addition, new Unilever research shows that through smart automation, the Cornetto wafer cone is four times crispier than other available products.

Digital platforms gain the latest insights from consumers through e-commerce and social media channels, and One-click AI Sales Forecasting is able to accurately predict demand. Being able to combine consumer insights with a digital R&D platform has also drastically shortened the innovation lead time, from 12 months to three, giving consumers what they want faster. The factory’s digital transformation has also accelerated sustainability efforts. Carbon emissions have been reduced by 83%, with electricity and water consumption being reduced by 14%. The site is on track to be carbon neutral within the next two years, directly contributing to Unilever’s target to have zero emissions from its global operations by 2030.

Jennifer Han, Unilever’s Head of Supply Chain Foods & Refreshment said: “We’re thrilled to have TaiCang part of the prestigious Lighthouse Network. By digitally transforming our value chains, we have been able to match the fast demands of the consumer and continue to produce our iconic and much-loved ice cream brands at scale. In addition, innovative technologies have allowed our factory workers to harness new, digital skills.”

Marc Engel, Unilever’s Chief Supply Chain Officer, said: “Unilever is on a journey to digitise its supply chain. The TaiCang site’s adoption of new technologies has expanded the factory’s efficiency and agility. It has seen a 42% reduction in manufacturing costs, while increasing ice cream market share in China The TaiCang site showcases a new type of smart manufacturing; one that combines productivity and competitiveness with environmental efforts. We see this as the future of manufacturing.”

Notes to editors:

The first Unilever factory to be awarded WEF’s Lighthouse status was its manufacturing site in Dubai, and its site in Hefei, China was the second.

Media Contacts

Safe Harbour

Where relevant, these actions are subject to the appropriate consultations and approvals.

This announcement may contain forward-looking statements, including ‘forward-looking statements’ within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Words such as ‘will’, ‘aim’, ‘expects’, ‘anticipates’, ‘intends’, ‘looks’, ‘believes’, ‘vision’, or the negative of these terms and other similar expressions of future performance or results, and their negatives, are intended to identify such forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based upon current expectations and assumptions regarding anticipated developments and other factors affecting the Unilever Group (the ‘Group’). They are not historical facts, nor are they guarantees of future performance.

Because these forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, there are important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Among other risks and uncertainties, the material or principal factors which could cause actual results to differ materially are: Unilever’s global brands not meeting consumer preferences; Unilever’s ability to innovate and remain competitive; Unilever’s investment choices in its portfolio management; the effect of climate change on Unilever’s business; Unilever’s ability to find sustainable solutions to its plastic packaging; significant changes or deterioration in customer relationships; the recruitment and retention of talented employees; disruptions in our supply chain and distribution; increases or volatility in the cost of raw materials and commodities; the production of safe and high quality products; secure and reliable IT infrastructure; execution of acquisitions, divestitures and business transformation projects; economic, social and political risks and natural disasters; financial risks; failure to meet high and ethical standards; and managing regulatory, tax and legal matters. A number of these risks have increased as a result of the current Covid-19 pandemic.

These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this document. Except as required by any applicable law or regulation, the Group expressly disclaims any obligation or undertaking to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statements contained herein to reflect any change in the Group’s expectations with regard thereto or any change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any such statement is based.

Further details of potential risks and uncertainties affecting the Group are described in the Group’s filings with the London Stock Exchange, Euronext Amsterdam and the US Securities and Exchange Commission, including in the Unilever Annual Report and Accounts 2020.