Consumers worldwide are shifting toward a plant-based diet, according to Alan Jope, CEO of international consumer goods company Unilever. Jope says that plant-based foods are not just a fad but an “inexorable” trend that is here to stay. “We are seeing in every single country in the world a shift towards more plant-based diets, even in emerging markets,” Jope told The Guardian. Unilever hopes to capitalize on the shift by increasing sales of its plant-based meat and dairy products to €1 billion ($1.2 billion) by 2027, representing a five-fold increase of its current sales in the category.
To move plant-based innovation forward, in December 2019, Unilever invested $94 million in The Hive—a food development center in the Netherlands. At the Hive, Unilever plans to work with academic researchers, startups, and other partners to develop new products, including plant-based meat and sustainable food packaging, that Jope hopes will drastically transform the global food system.
Unilever goes all-in on vegan options
In recent years, Unilever has added a growing number of plant-based products to its portfolio, including vegan ice cream flavors under its Ben & Jerry’s, Breyers, Talenti, and Magnum brands. In 2018, Unilever acquired Holland-based company De Vegetarische Slager (“The Vegetarian Butcher”) and has since partnered with fast-food chains worldwide to add vegan meat options to their menus, including Burger King locations in Mexico, Germany, and China.
Also in 2018, Unilever launched vegan mayonnaise under its Hellmann’s brand, which Jope said is “doing brilliantly.” For Veganuary this year, Hellmann’s expanded its vegan mayonnaise offerings in the United Kingdom to include three new flavors: Garlic, Chipotle, and Baconnaise.