Unilever wants to make plant-based foods the new normal

A plant based burger, photo: Reuters/Francois Lenoir
A plant based burger, photo: Reuters/Francois Lenoir

Unilever wants to grow a €1 billion plant-based business in the coming five to seven years. “As one of the largest food manufacturers in the world, we have a responsibility to help shape a global food system that is fair for everyone,” they said in a press release on Wednesday. 

At the moment, the company plays a role in destroying the planet by producing food products from animals. “Animal agriculture is known to be the second-largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions after fossil fuels and a cause of deforestation, water and air pollution and biodiversity loss,” the company said.

“Reducing our meat consumption is essential. New research has shown that changing to a plant-based diet could reduce our individual carbon footprint by as much as 35%,” the company stated.

Unilever realizes that a plant-based diet is not only better for the planet, but also for people’s health: “But if we want people to make the switch, we need plant-based options to be more accessible, affordable and appetizing. They need to be the easy, obvious choice.”

So the company announced to reduce their part in damaging the planet by offering more plant-based options from their brands and setting a €1 billion target sale.

Two years ago, Unilever bought The Vegetarian Butcher, which is now available in 30 countries. Their Hellmann’s vegan mayonnaise is available in 33 countries, and their Ben & Jerry’s has seven non-dairy alternatives.

“It will require really, really high growth rates,” Hanneke Faber, president of Unilever’s foods and refreshment business, told Reuters. “It’s a scary target honestly, but I think it’s important that we set it.”

And it’s not just good for people and the planet, but also a profitable business model. With the growing popularity of veganism, increased nutritional awareness and pandemic-fueled health concerns, plant-based meat and dairy products have been one of the fastest-growing packaged food areas.

Polaris Market Research in July forecast the global plant-based meat market to grow 15.8 percent a year over the next seven years, from $11 billion in 2019.

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