Unilever Changes Several Ingredients To Accommodate Commodity Shortages

With a global scarcity of commodities such as crude oil and sunflower oil, Britain’s Unilever has altered the constituent composition of several of its goods such as deodorants and packaged food to reduce prices and mitigate supply limitations.

The capacity to alter components and supplies, which has traditionally been difficult for consumer products manufacturers, became even more desirable when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused commodity prices to reach multi-year highs.

Unilever CEO Alan Jope announced in April that the company had begun modifying some of its recipes to utilise rapeseed oil instead of sunflower oil, which had been scarce since the invasion. Ukraine typically produces about half the world’s exports of sunflower oil.

According to Richard Slater, Unilever’s head of research and development, the manufacturer of Dove soap and Knorr stock cubes is not stopping there.

“Globally, there was a shortage of silicon so we were looking at our deodorant and making sure that we looked at the formulations there…to use less ingredients that are under pressure,” Slater said in an interview.

According to him, Unilever, which manufactures Rexona, Dove, Axe, and Lynx deodorants, dealt with this issue last year.

In its home and beauty care sectors, the corporation has likewise attempted to lessen the dependency of its products on petrochemicals and make them more sustainable.

“That has a double benefit if you can get a better product that is more sustainable, but also reduce the pressure on some of those ingredients under cost pressure,” Slater said.

Many packaged goods manufacturers have attempted to transition away from palm oil, which has been criticised for deforestation and labour abuses yet is used in everything from P&G’s Tide pods to Ferrero’s Nutella.

Unilever announced a collaboration with San Diego-based Genomatica on Thursday to develop and commercialise alternatives to palm oil and fossil fuel-derived cleansing chemicals.

“We’re not talking about a few thousand tonnes here, we are talking meaningful commercial scale,” Slater said, declining to provide details about how much of the new ingredient it plans to produce in the near term.

Because of the commodity’s cost, sourcing alternatives to palm is also “very crucial from a supply resilience point of view,” according to Slater.

When it comes to formula adjustments, Unilever no longer depends only on manual testing. Instead, it computationally simulates how new additives would effect products, according to Slater.

For example, as it changes shampoo formulations, the company utilises robots to test dozens of different modelled potential products on hair in a matter of hours.

(Adapted from RTE.ie)

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