Speaking in a recent interview, Unilever CEO Alan Jope revealed the conglomerate’s big plans ahead to tap into the fast-growing plant-based market, as the global appetite shift takes hold around the world. Describing the trend as “inexorable”, Jope outlined the Anglo-Dutch firm’s first steps to ramp up its plant-based sales, starting off by creating vegan-friendly versions of its most classic portfolio brands, from Magnum ice-creams to Hellmann’s mayonnaise.
“We are seeing in every single country in the world a shift towards more plant-based diets, even in emerging markets,” said Jope, in a recent Bloomberg interview on the company’s growth strategy. Given the business opportunity, Unilever isn’t holding back on its dive into the plant-based food category, recently setting out its ambitious €1 billion (approx. US$1.2 billion) sales target for the sector within the next five to seven years.
Jope, who described the plant-based trend as “inexorable”, says that the first step that the consumer goods giant will take will be to ramp up its vegan offerings within its brand portfolio, among them Magnum, Ben & Jerry’s and Hellmann’s. These three household names have already launched plant-based versions in recent years and have performed “brilliantly” on the market since.
We are seeing in every single country in the world a shift towards more plant-based diets, even in emerging markets.Alan Jope, CEO, Unilever
Another part of the plan is to potentially acquire more plant-based brands. In the interview, Jope said that “we will take a look at it” if the right candidate came along to sit alongside its existing plant-based brand The Vegetarian Butcher, which it has owned since 2018.
Within the past two years, the Anglo-Dutch conglomerate has taken the brand into more than 30 international markets, notably partnering with fast food chain Burger King to launch a meatless Whopper across Europe, Middle East and in China. The Vegetarian Butcher products have also landed in Hong Kong at a handful of restaurants.
Aside from plant-based food, the Unilever CEO also said that the company plans to target the beauty and nutritional supplement markets, as it eyes the trend led by increasingly health-conscious and wellness focused consumers.
Unilever isn’t alone when it comes to tapping into the unstoppable plant-based trend. Other conglomerates who have made clear their intentions to invest in vegan food include Swiss giant Nestlé and French corp Danone. Retailers are on board too, with the likes of Tesco and M&S setting aside sales targets and launching innovation teams in response to skyrocketing demand.
Earlier this year, a report by collaborative investor network FAIRR found that nearly half of the world’s biggest food companies are now all setting up dedicated teams to develop and sell plant-based products in response to mainstream demand. According to the analysis, Tesco and Unilever topped the ranking for its commitment to shift its portfolio towards plant-based foods.
Lead image courtesy of Unilever.