“The bold, stretching targets demonstrate our commitment to being a force for good.”
This week, consumer goods giant Unilever set an annual global sales target of €1 billion for its vegan food products, by 2027.
The estimated five-fold sales growth target is part of Unilever’s ‘Future Foods’ drive, launched globally with two prime objectives: to help people transition towards healthier diets and to help reduce the environmental impact of the global food chain.
According to the company, the growth will be driven by expanding its plant-based meat brand The Vegetarian Butcher and adding more vegan alternatives for its other brands, including Hellmann’s, Magnum, and Ben & Jerry’s.
As part of its first objective, the Dutch-English company, which also makes Lipton and Knorr is aiming to double the number of products that provide positive nutrition by 2025. These foods are defined as products rich in fruits, vegetables, proteins or micronutrients.
Unilever is also aiming to help consumers reduce their salt consumption to no more than 5g a day by 2022. The brand also aims to have its packaged ice cream formulated to contain less than 22g of total sugar and less than 250 calories per serving by 2025.
To achieve its next objective, Unilever, as part of the Champions 12.3 coalition target, is aiming to halve food waste in its direct global operations from factory to shelf by 2025.
‘Force for good’
“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,” said Hanneke Faber, president of Unilever’s Foods & Refreshment Division.
“These are bold, stretching targets which demonstrate our commitment to being a force for good.
‘Inequitable and inefficient’
He continued: “It’s widely recognized 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.”
‘Lead others to take action as well’
Commenting on the company’s goals to reduce food waste, Liz Goodwin, Senior Fellow and Director, Food Loss And Waste at World Resources Institute said: “Food loss and waste have massive impacts in terms of cost to the global economy, the environment and society.
“We know that food loss and waste contributes about 8% of global greenhouse emissions as well as wasting the land and water used in production of food.
“We need as many companies as possible to step up and prioritise the issue of food loss and waste and take action to reduce it. It is great to see Unilever showing this sort of leadership. Given the size and reach of Unilever, their commitment to halve food loss and waste across their global operations will undoubtedly lead others to take action as well.”
Vegan trend at Unilever
With the vegan food market rising dramatically in the last few years, Unilever has also ramped up its investment in the plant-based space.
Post acquiring The Vegetarian Butcher in 2018, Unilever has rolled out the plant-based meat brand into more than 30 countries. Last year, it supplied plant-based whoppers and nuggets to Burger King’s restaurants across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
Last year, the company invested €85 million ($101 million) in a food innovation center at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, to support the center’s research in developing new products, including plant-based meat, and sustainable food packaging.
Earlier this year, it began working with bio-tech start-up Algenuity to develop a vegan substitute for eggs in products such as mayonnaise, baked goods, and pasta using microalgae.
Unilever will also work on expanding vegan options under its Ben & Jerry’s, Hellman’s, and Magnum brands to meet its proposed target.
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