Unilever prepares for plant-based revolution

Hellmann's vegan mayo

Unilever wants to achieve a turnover of at least 1 billion euro within five to seven years with vegetable alternatives to meat and dairy. The multinational expects an explosive growth of the market.


Early start

Unilever launches a new 'Future Foods' strategy that focuses on climate and health. A plant-based turnaround is an important part of this strategy. Today, the multinational has a turnover of approximately 200 million euros with vegan products such as the meat substitutes of the Vegetarian Butcher, vegan Magnum or Hellmann's vegetable mayonnaise, but that should soon become much more.

“I think we are at the very beginning, for meat and dairy substitutes, of their market growth — they are still tiny compared to the overall meat and dairy markets," says Hanneke Faber, who runs Unilever's food division. "In the most developed countries it’s 5 per cent of meat or dairy — some predictions say it could go to 50 per cent," she told Financial Times. Although there is a lot of competition in the market, the company says they are up for it. A year ago, Unilever won a major contract to supply Vegetarian Butcher's vegetable burgers to Burger King's European operations.


Soya and algae

Unilever is open to takeovers but wants to grow in these market segments on its own. The company focuses on meat substitutes, milk-free ice creams and dairy-free mayonnaise. Milk substitutes - a market in which rival Danone is strong - therefore fall outside its scope. For meat substitutes, the multinational focuses on soy as the most important ingredient, but algae will also play a more important role in the future.

Unilever is also formulating a number of additional climate ambitions: for example, the group wants to halve food waste by 2025 and is taking measures to combat deforestation in the supply chain by 2023. The company is also making its food products healthier by reducing sugar and salt and reducing some portions.