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Responsible treats

We strongly believe that people should be able to enjoy treats responsibly, as part of a balanced diet.

Balanced diets can include treats

People all around the world love treats like ice creams. They bring pleasure to life, and we want to offer sparks of happiness across the world.

Our global portfolio includes many well-known and much-loved brands, offering people a wide variety of choice. Our ice creams, for example, range from more indulgent offerings like Magnum and Ben & Jerry’s, to lower calorie water-based ice lollies like Calippo Mini and Popsicle.

We provide different serving size options to help people opt for mini-treats, and offer a variety of choices to suit different dietary needs and preferences. And our responsible marketing and nutrition labelling across all of our products help people to make informed choices.

a group of friend in a open air dinner table sharing slices of Viennetta Ice Cream for dessert.

As a leading ice cream company, we’ve been taking a proactive approach to responsible treats over many decades. We have strong commitments to limit the maximum amount of calories and sugar in our portfolio. Since 2014, all our kids’ ice creams have complied with our Highest Nutritional Standards (HNS) – and now they are all also in line with our stricter sugar pledge (Opens in a pop-up window ).

Dietary recommendations recognise the role of responsible treats

Around the world, national dietary guidance recommends to limit consumption of sugar, salt and fats. Some countries give more detailed recommendations and also recognise that there is room for an occasional treat. The UK’s Eat Well Guide, for instance, states that treats that are high in saturated fat, salt and sugar, should be consumed “less often and in small amounts”. And the Swiss Food Pyramid recommendations say to “consume sweets, salty snacks and alcohol in small quantities”.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans indicate that “a small amount of calories (around 15%) are left over for added sugars, saturated fat, and, (if consumed) alcohol.” And in Australia, treats are counted as ‘discretionary foods’, outside of the five recommended food groups. One serving of discretionary foods are considered to be 600 kJ (143 Kcal) and it should be consumed occasionally. The Netherlands Nutrition Centre also has similar recommendations – advising people to choose an item outside the Dutch Wheel of Five dietary guidance “no more than three times per week”.

Enjoy treats occasionally

While ice cream treats are typically not consumed frequently, we support dietary guidance and take our responsibility seriously through our Positive Nutrition commitments as well as our marketing and advertising policy. Our nutrition labelling policy also ensures that we provide transparent nutrition information for consumers, to help them make informed choices.

As Dr Harvey Anderson, Professor of Nutritional Sciences and Physiology at the University of Toronto and a distinguished researcher on the relationship between food intake (including the role of snacking) and disease risk advises “consider both the dietary impact and a snack’s potential contribution, as a treat, to happiness and wellbeing.” The general rule is: keep treats small and don’t eat them too often.

Data on the frequency of consumption of ice cream suggests that consumers understand that they should be consumed as occasional treats. According to Euromonitor data, in 2021 the per capita consumption of ice cream is the highest in Australia at 20.5 litres per year, corresponding to about four servings consumed per person per week. Lower consumption countries include the USA equating to ten servings per month, Italy at two servings per week, Brazil at 1 serving every two weeks, Thailand at 10 servings per year and India at 4 servings per person across a year.

"Aim to enjoy a variety of snacks, to limit the serving size and to balance less healthy, calorie‐dense options with healthier, less calorie‐dense options. For example, swapping a pastry or a fatty savoury snack with lower calorie ice creams may positively influence people’s nutrient intakes."

Dr. Harvey Anderson, Professor of Nutritional Sciences and Physiology at the University of Toronto

Our product improvement ice cream journey

We have been offering ‘better for you’ ice creams and a variety of choices such as minis, lower fat and reduced sugar options for decades. Under our Positive Nutrition commitments, we continue to step up by capping sugar and calories (Opens in a pop-up window ) across our packaged ice cream portfolio.

These commitments build on the nutrition targets of the 10 years of time-bound Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (PDF 9.53 MB) (Opens in a pop-up window ) (accessible version (PDF 176.79 KB)). This plan was the first-of-its-kind in terms of its scope and ambition, and became a benchmark for corporate sustainability.

To continuously improve the nutritional quality of our products and achieve our targets, we’ve invested heavily over the years in science and technology for how ice cream is made. For example, sugar and fat are nutrients to limit, yet play a critical structural role in the creamy consistency of ice cream, which is complex to make. It’s made up of a delicate mix of key structural components: air, ice, fat particles, and a ‘matrix’ of sugars, thickeners and protein. As a result of our investments, we’ve found solutions to enable us to reduce sugar and fat in our ice creams.

Our journey to improve the nutritional content of our responsible and delicious treats is far from over. We know we can’t do this alone, and continue to invest in exploring new disruptive technologies, working seamlessly between our own world class science and technology teams, and with our external partners in the food ecosystem.

Encouraging people to enjoy treats responsibly

We’re committed to promoting healthy diets, not just by providing more products meeting our commitments, but also by marketing and advertising (PDF 307.49 KB) (Opens in a pop-up window ) them responsibly. Our principles are applicable to all Unilever’s food and beverage marketing communications and activities worldwide.

We aim to help consumers make an informed choice about our products, using appropriate language to convey the product type, for example, a product with a better nutritional profile might carry a nutrition claim if appropriate. We ensure that any claims used have a sound scientific basis and aren’t misleading.

Clear labelling = informed choices

Breyers CarbSmart™ Apple Cinnamon Baked Oats

This recipe uses Breyers CarbSmart vanilla ice cream, and meets our internal nutrition guidelines. It encourages the use of positive ingredients and displays transparent communication and nutrition information online.

Our guiding principle is that clear labelling helps people to make informed choices about what they consume.

We provide key information on pack, adhere to regulations in line with our nutrition labelling policy and comply with local labelling regulations, which covers our entire Nutrition and Ice Cream portfolios. This means we apply it in all countries - even if those countries have no labelling regulations.

And as well as offering transparent nutrition written information, wherever space allows we illustrate what a recommended serving looks like. For some people showing, for example, two scoops of ice cream as an icon on a pack, can be helpful.

Pack of Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream Dessert with icon informing that the total pack contains 18 scoops of ice cream.

We aim to use imagery to encourage people to follow balanced diets and healthy, active lifestyles such as showing the number of scoops as a recommended serving size. And we have internal responsible recipe guidelines when using an ice cream product as an ingredient. These include a focus on capping nutrients to limit, encouraging positive ingredients and nutrients, emphasising the importance of portion control, and using transparent communication and nutrition information.

Providing more responsible snacks

In recent years, we’ve expanded our snacking portfolio through mergers and acquisitions, such as Graze and Mae Terra, our most recent acquisitions. We also continue to improve the nutritional content of our existing snack brands, like Maizena, Knorr and Calve, by including more plant-based, positive ingredients like wholegrains.

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