Unilever is all set to partner with food-tech company ENOUGH (formerly 3F BIO) to bring new plant-based meat products to market. Using a zero-waste fermentation process, the company produces ABUNDA® mycoprotein, a high-fibre complete food ingredient containing all essential amino acids. The process involves feeding natural fungi with renewable feedstock, such as wheat and corn.
ENOUGH is a natural fit for Unilever’s fast-growing meat-alternative brand, The Vegetarian Butcher, which grew over 70% in 2020, says a company statement. The Vegetarian Butcher uses a diverse blend of plant-based proteins to create meat-like tastes and textures for its wide-ranging portfolio, which is now available in fast-growing markets in 45 countries across four continents. It recently launched vegan Raw Burger that claims to deliver the taste and juicy tenderness of a beef burger cooked rare. The Vegetarian Butcher has also entered into a partnership with Burger King to roll out products like the Plant-Based Whopper, Plant-Based Nuggets and Vegan Royale in more than 35 countries around the world.
Andrew Beasley, Commercial Director of ENOUGH said, “Producing vast quantities of healthy and sustainable protein is one of the most urgent global priorities. There’s a rapid transition in the food industry and we are excited with this collaboration with Unilever and The Vegetarian Butcher, which truly supports our aim to create impact and scale.”
Unilever has a strategic focus on developing the portfolio into high-growth spaces, and contribute towards its annual global sales target of €1 billion from plant-based meat and dairy alternatives by 2025-2027.
The target forms part of Unilever’s ‘Future Foods’ ambition, launched globally with two key objectives: to help people transition towards healthier diets and to help reduce the environmental impact of the global food chain.
Carla Hilhorst, EVP of R&D for Foods & Refreshment at Unilever, said: “Plant-based foods is one of Unilever’s fastest growing segments and we’re delighted to partner with ENOUGH to develop more sustainable protein products that are delicious, nutritious, and a force for good. We’re excited by the potential that this technology has for future innovations across our portfolio, and we can’t wait to launch more plant-based foods that help people cut down on meat, without compromising on taste.”
According to recent studies, Europe and North America will reach “peak meat” by 2025, at which point consumption of conventional meat will start to decline. Unilever has been expanding its plant-based meat and dairy alternatives business for several years. Since acquiring The Vegetarian Butcher in 2018, Unilever has expanded the plant-based meat brand into more than 45 countries. The Vegetarian Butcher was chosen as the supplier of Burger King’s Plant-Based Whopper across Europe, China, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Africa, Burger King’s Plant-Based Nuggets across Europe, and the newly-launched Vegan Royale in the UK and Netherlands.
Unilever’s first vegan Magnum was awarded Best Vegan Ice Cream in the UK by PETA in 2019. Both Hellmann’s Vegan Mayo and Ben & Jerry’s Coconutterly Caramel’d Dairy-free were named as one of Nielsen’s top 25 Breakthrough Innovations in Europe for 2020.
In 2019, Unilever made an €85million investment in ‘The Hive’, a foods innovation centre at Wageningen University in the Netherlands to support research into plant-based ingredients and meat alternatives, efficient crops, sustainable food packaging and nutritious food.
Unilever has also partnered with biotech company Algenuity to explore the use of microalgae, another highly-nutritious and sustainable protein powerhouse, into a wealth of products such as mayonnaise, soups, sauces and meat alternatives.