In the Chinese market, Unilever and Luxue, the world’s largest ice cream producers, ushered in a “major equipment upgrade”.
Xiaoshidai noted that on January 15, 2022, the ice cream giant, which operates brands such as covedo and Menglong in China, revealed at the Symposium on “scientific and technological innovation enables high-quality development of the food industry” held in Beijing that its new ice cream factory in Taicang, Jiangsu Province has been officially put into operation.
It is worth noting that this is Unilever’s largest investment in the field of ice cream in China for more than 10 years. It is also the first “lighthouse factory” in the global ice cream industry – in short, it is a successful example of Intelligent Manufacturing in the fourth industrial revolution. This is a landmark benchmark for the whole ice cream industry.
Unilever Taicang ice cream factory (renderings)
At the meeting, the company demonstrated the new plant in the form of “cloud visit”. “In particular, I would like to introduce the world’s first Menglong ice cream flexible production line. It achieves a two-way balance between intelligence and flexibility, can produce multiple flavors of ice cream on one production line at the same time, realize rapid switching and improve customized production efficiency.” Xu Yucong, vice president of Unilever food and ice cream division, mentioned.
Today, in the exchange with the snack generation, Xu Yucong further revealed the “black technology” of the factory, and talked about the growth status of Unilever’s ice cream business, the latest consumption insight into China’s ice cream market and the strategy of “high-quality development” in the future.
Xu Yucong, vice president of Unilever food and ice cream Division
Let’s pay attention.
Let’s take a look at this future smart ice cream factory.
Perhaps the watchman with good memory still remembers the “previously on”: in June 2020, Unilever announced that it would spend 100 million euros (now about 720 million yuan) to expand and upgrade Unilever Taicang production base, which is Unilever’s largest investment in China in recent 10 years. Ice cream is the protagonist of Unilever’s investment. The first phase of the project focuses on ice cream products.
Now, the first phase of the project is completed and put into operation. It is reported that this Unilever Taicang new factory is capable of ice cream production and innovation with science and technology, and has the advantages of artificial intelligence model, consumer oriented digital innovation tools, flexible production line, non lighting factory with whole process automatic operation and opening up the end-to-end value chain. In addition, help achieve carbon neutrality by reducing carbon emissions by 83% and reducing energy and water consumption by 14%.
Last September, Unilever Taicang food production base was selected as a world-class “lighthouse factory”, which is the second “lighthouse factory” title Unilever won in China after Hefei comprehensive production base, and also the first “lighthouse factory” in the global ice cream industry.
Unilever Taicang ice cream factory (renderings)
This Jiangsu Taicang factory has many initiatives, such as the first ice cream flexible production line. Snack generation learned that before that, although many categories such as personal care and snacks could be flexibly produced, it is reported that there is no precedent for flexible customization of ice cream around the world due to “more complex process technology and higher health and safety requirements”.
“Today, we see that Chinese consumers’ demand for ice cream products is becoming more and more personalized. In order to meet this trend and further improve production flexibility, we have customized and developed a Monroe ice cream production line that can produce multiple flavors at the same time.” Xu Yucong said that this world’s first Menglong ice cream flexible production line can “intelligently, efficiently and flexibly” meet the needs of various channels and consumers.
It is worth mentioning that Unilever Taicang “lighthouse factory” has obtained the national “three same certification”, that is, the same production line, the same standard and the same quality, so as to ensure the same line, standard and quality of domestic and export products, and bring the same high-quality taste enjoyment to consumers at home and abroad.
Unilever Taicang ice cream factory (renderings)
Guo Jing, Secretary General of Santong alliance, pointed out that according to the identification requirements of “Santong”, the Santong products of manufacturing enterprises in China need to meet both Chinese national standards and international advanced standards, which will help to improve the overall quality of food supply. Xu Yucong told the snack generation that through the implementation of such “three tongs” projects, the company also hopes to sell more and more “made in China” ice cream to other countries in the future.
The new Unilever Taicang ice cream factory also has a very “open” ability: using artificial intelligence model to accurately predict market demand and accelerate product iteration with consumer oriented innovation.
“With the help of the artificial intelligence model of the new plant, our prediction accuracy of market and consumer demand can be doubled, and the prediction efficiency can be improved from 2 days to 2 hours. The consumer oriented digital innovation tool can improve the innovation efficiency from 12 months to 3 months.” Xu Yucong revealed to the snack generation that this is the world’s first ice cream factory integrating intelligence and flexibility.
“With the growth of the Chinese market, more and more innovative products designed for Chinese consumers continue to meet with you.” He said.
This is also expected to help Unilever “eat” more share in China’s ice cream market.
According to Unilever China’s official website, the company’s ice cream business includes heluxue, keaido, Monroe, many circles, light premium and other brands. Unilever and Luxue are also the world’s largest ice cream enterprises.
Xu Yucong said that since the establishment of a factory in China in 1994, heluxue’s business has achieved rapid development with China’s economy. At present, China has become the world’s largest consumer market for keludo and Menglong brands under heluxue.
According to the latest report of the third-party Market Research Institute, heluxue ranks among the top three in China’s ice cream market share. By the end of 2021, kelido and Menglong under heluxue have also become the top three ice cream brands in terms of market share.
Academician Chen Junshi, researcher and general consultant of the national food safety risk assessment center, said at the meeting that as a branch of the food industry, intelligent innovation and health sustainability are the top priority and key strategy of the ice cream industry.
Behind the acceleration of local diversified innovation and product iteration is the huge scale and high growth potential of China’s ice cream market.
According to the Research Report of Sinorama, in 2018, the market scale of China’s ice cream industry reached 124.1 billion yuan, increased to nearly 138 billion yuan in 2019 and 147 billion yuan in 2020. The scale of China’s ice cream market ranks first in the world. “Under the epidemic, the production and supply of global food have been impacted, but the ice cream industry as a whole has maintained a steady rise, which is also a manifestation of the trend that ice cream has become a hot consumer.” The report said.
“As a part of the food industry, the ice cream industry has shown strong impact resistance in the post epidemic era. Under the new situation, the ice cream industry should use new ideas and technologies to create a new business format.” Zhang jiukui, chairman of China bakery and sugar products industry association, pointed out at the meeting.
In fact, in recent years, the product innovation of Unilever ice cream business has driven to the “fast lane”.
Xu Yucong shared with the snack generation that the number of innovative items launched by Lu Xue’s brands has “increased and even doubled year by year”. “We have dozens of new products to meet you every year, including bold and innovative products that quickly respond to market trends and consumer needs such as channel customization and seasonal restrictions. Some products loved by consumers have also been preserved for a long time and become classic products.” He said.
At present, in terms of product innovation, he Luxue mainly aims at four core consumption trends – “enjoy the taste feast, instant satisfaction, higher quality, healthier and environment-friendly selection of ingredients”.
The snack generation noticed that recently, in e-commerce, offline convenience stores and other channels, the Menglong brand of Helu snow has launched a variety of new products to meet these trends, including “rich dark chocolate” and other flavors.
It is worth noting that the common feature of this wave of new products is that, on the one hand, they reduce the sugar content of Belgian chocolate in raw materials to meet the health trend of reducing sugar; On the other hand, high-quality imported cream is added to prepare ice cream with “stronger milk flavor”.
Menglong rich dark chocolate ice cream
, which was launched in early January this year
“In recent years, we have paid special attention to the changes in Chinese consumers’ demand for ice cream, including different requirements for ‘sweet’ in taste. Based on this insight, taking Menglong brand as an example, the team has experienced more than 200 formulas, more than 50 rounds of internal blind testing and 5 rounds of consumer testing through two years of efforts, and finally launched a new product. Continuously optimized whole milk fat ice cream and The chocolate after sugar reduction is more matched to provide consumers with happy and delicious food. ” Xu Yucong said.
Xiaoshidai learned from Unilever that this wave of new Menglong products were officially launched on January 1 this year and are now being distributed nationwide.
“In 2022, other brands under heluxue will also be launched one after another, such as the light and excellent brand focusing on the concept of health, and the thousand layer Snow Brand focusing on the concept of exquisite dessert.” He told xiaoshidai that these brands will gradually grow into the “mainstay” of heluxue’s long-term strategic layout in the Chinese market.
At the meeting, Ding Gangqiang, director of the Institute of nutrition and health of the China Center for Disease Control and prevention, said that by constantly promoting scientific and technological innovation, more new products will be presented to consumers, which is of great significance to the development of China’s food industry in the new era.
The snack generation noticed that the ice cream consumption scene has become increasingly diversified, which has also become one of the hot topics of the recent industry seminar.
Xu Yucong said that Unilever has also observed the change in the value of ice cream products to consumers, and the consumption scene is constantly expanding. Ice cream has broken away from the fixed impression of traditional ice products, from functional products for summer heat relief to leisure consumer goods throughout entertainment and social scenes, and gradually transferred from outdoor to family scenes.
“In the past, the sales of summer ice cream accounted for a very high proportion in the annual sales of heluxue, but with the innovation of ice cream products, ice cream is no longer just a functional product for relieving summer heat and thirst, but has become a leisure food suitable for all seasons, with the continuous expansion of eating scenes and seasons.” He told xiaoshidai.
Therefore, season continuation has become one of the important strategies of Helu snow in recent years.
Xu Yucong said that in the traditional “off-season” autumn and winter of ice cream, he Luxue also maintained sales and marketing in various channels, especially the expansion of ice cream e-commerce business and “home” business.
“As a low-temperature product, ice cream has higher requirements for basic cold chain facilities, channels and logistics. Thanks to the development of cold chain transportation and e-commerce business, we actively carry out digital marketing, develop ice cream Express home, which is more convenient and fast, and increase the availability of ice cream consumption.” He said.
In addition to the promotion in the summer peak season, the “New Year’s Day”, “Valentine’s Day” and “double 11” in the “off-season” of ice cream have also become more growth points of Helu snow. During the “double 11” period in 2021, the sales of he Luxue on e-commerce platforms continued to lead the rise.
In terms of product design, combined with the changes of consumers’ ice cream consumption scene, he Luxue has launched more ice cream products suitable for home enjoyment, such as Menglong’s brand-new cup product line, Menglong’s knocking cup, which was launched in 2021.
“As a food that can bring happiness, ice cream consumption is more and more throughout the year. It has become a consumption fashion to enjoy ice cream anytime and anywhere. Compared with the single function of relieving summer heat, consumers pay more attention to the emotional pursuit brought by ice cream.” Xu Yucong said that therefore, he Luxue pays special attention to emotional connection in marketing and sales to convey more happiness, which is also a magic weapon to shorten the distance with consumers.
Snack generation learned from Unilever China that over the years, heluxue ice cream has “maintained double-digit steady growth”, and the growth rate in 2021 reached a record high. Among them, affected by the epidemic and the change of consumer habits, the sales of Helu snow in e-commerce and digital channels have developed rapidly in recent years, and “doubled year-on-year” in 2021 compared with the previous year.
“In the future, we will unswervingly pursue high-quality development, accelerate the improvement of scientific and technological innovation ability, bring more perfect and rich brand and product portfolio matrix to consumers, comprehensively cover market consumption at different levels of price belt through multi brand strategy, and constantly upgrade the structure in subdivided categories; constantly strengthen the expansion of cities and channels, and further improve the terminal distribution of products ； Seize the opportunities of emerging channels and launch customized products that fit the characteristics of channels; Take the supply chain development of digital, intelligent and flexible production as the business escort. ” Xu Yucong said.