The Aberdeenshire-based brand, which also makes chocolate, is investing £4 million in replacing its existing freezing equipment with low-carbon, power-efficient units run on ammonia – a natural refrigerant gas that is understood to pose no threat to the environment. Mackie’s has been using HCFC gases, which are seen as having a very high global warming potential.
The new system will cool its ice cream with heat from a biomass boiler, powered by a sustainable energy source, in what the business says is the first large-scale plant in Scotland to fuse biomass heat and absorption chilling.
It will enable Mackie’s to target “ambitious” carbon dioxide equivalent reductions of 90 per cent and energy costs of 70 to 80 per cent.
The project is being realised due to a grant from the Scottish Government Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme, match-funded by Mackie’s through a loan from Bank of Scotland.
It is hoped that it will inspire other Scottish fish, meat and dairy food manufacturers to adopt similar energy-efficient technology.
Gerry Stephens, finance director at Mackie’s of Scotland, said: “Our ultimate aim is to one day go completely off-grid and use 100 per cent renewable energy. This is an important step towards realising these green ambitions.
“We’re very excited about this project as the technologies involved are tried-and-tested methods, but have not been commonly combined to produce a low-carbon, low-energy solution for cold store refrigeration.
“With Bank of Scotland’s support, we are realising our green ambitions and, in the long run, we hope that our new system will set a precedent and make the energy-intensive food and drink sector more sustainable.”
Mackie’s already produces more than ten million litres of ice cream a year using more than 70 per cent renewable energy thanks to its Aberdeenshire farm’s wind turbines and solar panels.
Marc Gilmour, relationship director at Bank of Scotland, said: “Since the first production of ice cream in 1986, Mackie’s have been leaders in low-carbon initiatives and renewables.
“This project will help the Scottish Government to meet its Energy Strategy targets, which aim to generate 50 per cent of Scotland’s heat, transport and electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2030.
“Bank of Scotland is fully committed to playing a key role in funding Scotland’s transition to a green economy and helping Britain prosper. By utilising our expertise and Clean Growth Finance Initiative we want to make business’ green projects happen.”
He also said the lender has commitment to train 450 relationship managers by June on sustainability in partnership with the University of Cambridges’ Institute for Sustainability Leadership.
Planning permission is now being sought and a project manager has been hired with the target of beginning foundation work before the summer.
Mackie’s last month reported a record annual turnover of £13.9m and gross profit exceeding £1.3m for the financial year ending May 2018.