Unilever says it expects sales of its plant-based meat and dairy alternatives to reach €1 billion over the next five to seven years.
The Anglo-Dutch multinational says growth will be driven by the roll-out of The Vegetarian Butcher as well as increasing vegan alternatives from brands including Hellmann’s, Magnum and Wall’s.
The target is part of Unilever’s ‘Future Foods’ ambition, launched this week with two key objectives: to help people transition towards healthier diets and to help reduce the environmental impact of the global food chain.
Hanneke Faber, president of Unilever’s Foods & Refreshment Division, says, “As one of the world’s largest food companies, we have a critical role to play in helping to transform the global food system. It’s not up to us to decide for people what they want to eat, but it is up to us to make healthier and plant-based options accessible to all. These are bold, stretching targets which demonstrate our commitment to being a force for good.
“…animal agriculture is the second largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions after fossil fuels and a leading cause of deforestation, water and air pollution and biodiversity loss.”
“It is widely recognised that the current global food system is inequitable and inefficient. One billion people around the world are hungry while two billion are obese or overweight. One third of all food produced is thrown away. And animal agriculture is the second largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions after fossil fuels and a leading cause of deforestation, water and air pollution and biodiversity loss.”
The 2019 EAT-Lancet report showed that a diet rich in plant-based foods and with less animal-sourced foods offer both health and environmental benefits6.
Jessica Fanzo, Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor of Global Food & Agricultural Policy and Ethics, Johns Hopkins University and a co-author of the EAT-Lancet report said: “The average person’s daily diet will need to change drastically during the next three decades to make sure everyone is fed without depleting the planet. By improving food production and food environments, transforming eating habits, and reducing food waste, we can begin to solve these problems. Unilever’s commitments are integral to helping people make changes to their diet, with healthier and more sustainable food products that are accessible and affordable for their consumers.”
Future foods, or a diet for multinationals?
NN comments: Unilever’s bold new plant-based strategy has been welcomed by a number of prominent sustainability leaders, who have commended the company’s “leadership”. But for those food and farming campaigners who question the conclusions – and motives – behind the EAT-Lancet report, Unilever’s announcement will confirm a view that multinational food companies are steering a food policy narrative that advantages their brands and products over a healthy, fresh food-dominant diet.