… runs Europe’s biggest ice cream factory from Heppenheim?
That “it is always time for ice cream,” is something every parent knows. And statistics prove that the Germans have an especially sweet tooth: The average German scarfs down about eight litres of ice cream each year, which by European standards means Germans rankonly behind the Scandinavians. While the consumption at ice cream parlours is limited to the summer season, industrial produced ice cream and popsicles can be enjoyed all the year round. About one billion units of single portions of ice cream, so-called “impulse ice cream,” are noshed by the Germans annually. A not altogether insignificant part of this demand is met by the Dutch-British consumer goods company Unilever, who—by their own account—is the biggest ice cream producer in the world. The core part of its European production is located in the heart of the Rhine-Neckar region, in Heppenheim an der Bergstraße in southern Hesse to be precise.
The sweet and tempting products of the originally German brand “Langnese” have been manufactured in the hometown of Formula 1 pilot Sebastian Vettel since 1960. Langnese was incorporated into the Unilever group together with Iglo becoming “Langnese-Iglo GmbH.” Since then, the corporation has invested more than EUR 100 million in retaining and expanding the production facilities. Today, the “Sourcing Unit Heppenheim” is the biggest of ten Unilever ice cream factories in Europe and belongs to the biggest in the world. On roughly 100,000 squaremetres, Unilever produces ice cream day and night, thus producing 150 million litres of ice cream divided into 1.5 billion portions per year. The most significant output belongs to best-seller “Magnum,” launched in 1989—at peak times up to 450 Magnum ice creams leave the production line per minute. The rest is accounted for by 40 other types of ice cream, amongst which are classics such as “Capri,” “Calippo,” “Dolomiti” or ice desserts such as “Cremissimo” and “Vienetta.”
To meet the market demands for Magnum alone, 3 million kilograms of chocolate per year and milk from 6,000 cows per day are needed. For the fruit-flavoured popsicles Capri, however, 300,000 litres of orange juice are needed. The factory warehouse accordingly holds 4,500 pallets. At a temperature of minus 27 degrees Celsius, the products rest for several days until they have the right consistency to be sold. Up to 50 lorries leave the factory every day to deliver the ice-cold treats to supermarket freezers, public swimming pools or cinemas. While 70 percent of production goes to Germany, Austria and Switzerland, 30 percent is exported from Heppenheim to 19 different countries.
With Langnese ice cream, Unilever is the market leader in Germany holding a market share of 30 percent. Even if Unilever ice cream is named differently in other countries, the standardised red heart-shaped logo stands out and can thus easily be recognised around the world —from Albania to China and Zambia. The premium brand “Ben & Jerry’s” originating from the US and produced for the European market in the Netherlands also belongs to the business empire.
625 people work at the Unilever factory site in Heppenheim making it the biggest employer in the district town of 25,000 inhabitants. In Germany, the corporation employs more than 6,000 of its 175,000 employees worldwide. The total turnover of the company amounted to EUR 48 billion in 2014.
Unfortunately, there are no factory tours at the site in Heppenheim but consumers are compensated with a factory outlet. So, whoever cannot get enough of his or her favourite ice cream: Fetch your cooler and go directly to 1 Langnesestraße in Heppenheim…
PS: Unilever does not only produce ice cream in the Rhine-Neckar region, but soap, too: From the factory in Mannheim with 150 employees almost 2 million pieces of “Dove” soap annually go on sale from here worldwide.