Unilever to halve food waste, sets €1bn sales target for plant-based food alternatives

Consumer goods giant Unilever has unveiled a new "future foods" strategy that will see the company commit to halving food waste, improving nutritional standards and set a €1bn sales target for plant-based meat and dairy alternatives.

Unilever to halve food waste, sets €1bn sales target for plant-based food alternatives

Growth will be delivered by a rollout of the Vegetarian Butcher

Unilever’s Future Foods ambition has been launched across the globe today (18 November). It is focused on improving the nutritional value of its food product offerings and increasing the amount of plant-based meat and dairy alternatives in its portfolio.

One key facet of the new ambition is to halve food waste from direct global operations, from factory to shelf, by 2025 – five years ahead of a target that Unilever set as part of Champions 12.3 coalition to combat food waste.

The food waste targets are accompanied by an aim to deliver €1bn in sales for plant-based meat and dairy alternatives within the next five to seven years. Growth will be delivered by a rollout of the Vegetarian Butcher, which Unilever acquired in 2018. In addition, more vegan options for brands such as Hellmann’s, Magnum and Wall’s will be introduced.

Unilever’s president of foods and refreshment division Hanneke Faber said: “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.

“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.”

Planting for progress

The Vegetarian Butcher has been expanded into more than 30 countries and was last year chosen as the supplier of Burger King’s Plant-Based Whopper and Plant-Based Nuggets across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. 

Unilever is also aiming to double the number of products that deliver “positive nutrition” globally by 2025. As a result, 85% of Unilever’s global foods portfolio will help consumers reduce salt intake to a maximum of 5g by 2022, while 95% of Unilever’s packaged ice cream, which includes brands such as Magnum and Ben & Jerry’s, will not contain more than 22g of total sugar, and 250 Kcal per serving, by 2025.

The focus on plant-based offerings comes as another blow to the global meat sector. The increased impacts of climate change coupled with rapid growth of alternative proteins will put “billions of dollars at risk” in the meat sector, according to the $20trn investor network FAIRR.

The network examined 43 of the world’s largest listed meat companies, many of which supply to companies like McDonald’s and Burger King. The assessment found that some meat suppliers could lose as much as 45% of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) by 2050.

Matt Mace

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