Unilever has partnered with food-tech company ENOUGH (formerly 3F BIO) to bring new plant-based meat products to market.
ENOUGH grows non animal protein by fermenting fungi using renewable feedstocks to grow the most sustainable source of food protein. This produces what the company calls ABUNDA mycoprotein, a complete food ingredient containing all essential amino acids as well as being high in dietary fibre. It is versatile and can be made into vegan meat, seafood and dairy products. The company will supply ABUNDA as a B2B food ingredient to consumer brands and retailers, addressing the need for high scale supply of healthy and sustainable protein to address a rapidly growing market.
ENOUGH, with operations in Scotland, England and the Netherlands, is building a first of its kind mycoprotein factory (50,000 tonnes capacity) which will initially grow 10,000 tonnes per annum and which targets production of over a million tonnes cumulatively within 10 years of its launch in 2022.
Peak meat consumption
Recent research  suggests that Europe and North America will reach “peak meat” by 2025, at which point consumption of conventional meat starts to fall. The global meat-free sector is expected to hit US$290 billion in 2035.
Carla Hilhorst, EVP of R&D for Foods & Refreshment at Unilever, said: “Plant-based foods is one of Unilever’s fastest growing segments and we’re delighted to partner with ENOUGH to develop more sustainable protein products that are delicious, nutritious, and a force for good. We’re excited by the potential that this technology has for future innovations across our portfolio, and we can’t wait to launch more plant-based foods that help people cut down on meat, without compromising on taste.”
A plant-based food revolution
The game-changing protein is a natural fit for Unilever’s fast-growing meat-alternative brand, The Vegetarian Butcher, which grew over 70% in 2020. With a broad range of products for meat lovers, flexitarians, vegetarians and vegans alike, the brand is on a mission to become the largest butcher in the world by inspiring a plant-based food revolution.
The Vegetarian Butcher uses a diverse blend of plant-based proteins to create meat-like tastes and textures for its wide-ranging portfolio, which is now available in 45 countries across four continents. The Vegetarian Butcher’s recently launched vegan Raw Burger delivers the taste and tenderness of a beef burger cooked rare, while its partnership with Burger King has brought products like the Plant-Based Whopper, Plant-Based Nuggets and Vegan Royale to meat-lovers in more than 35 countries around the world.
Andrew Beasley, Commercial Director of ENOUGH, said: “Producing vast quantities of healthy and sustainable protein is one of the most urgent global priorities. There’s a rapid transition in the food industry and we are excited with this collaboration with Unilever and The Vegetarian Butcher, which truly supports our aim to create impact and scale.”
Unilever’s ‘Future Foods’ ambition
Plant-based innovations like these will support the delivery of Unilever’s strategic focus on developing the portfolio into high-growth spaces, and contribute towards its annual global sales target of €1 billion from plant-based meat and dairy alternatives by 2025-2027. The target forms part of Unilever’s ‘Future Foods’ ambition, launched globally with two key objectives: to help people transition towards healthier diets and to help reduce the environmental impact of the global food chain.
In 2019, Unilever made an €85 million investment in ‘The Hive’, a foods innovation centre at Wageningen University in the Netherlands to support research into plant-based ingredients and meat alternatives, efficient crops, sustainable food packaging and nutritious food.
Unilever has also partnered with biotech company Algenuity to explore the use of microalgae, another highly-nutritious and sustainable protein powerhouse, into a wealth of products such as mayonnaise, soups, sauces and meat alternatives.
- Food for Thought: The Protein Transformation (2021), Boston Consulting Group and Blue Horizon Corporation. www.bcg.com/publications/2021/the-benefits-of-plant-based-meats