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Unilever and Tesco pioneers in plant-based foods

Sat 19 Sep 2020 | 03:15 pm GMT
Michelle Urquhart | Products of Change Writer

Plant Chef is Tesco\'s own plant-based range of foods

Tesco has dedicated plant-based product development team and Unilever has invested $94 million in plant-based innovation The FAIRR investor network spent four years engaging with 25 giant food retailers and manufacturers, and found that two in five global food giants now have dedicated teams to develop and sell plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy; with Tesco and Unilever ranked top. Tesco and Unilever were praised by FAIRR for their commitment to shifting food portfolios to more sustainable protein sources. Plant-based food has become the biggest culinary trend of the decade with demand helping to boost the chilled vegetarian/vegan sector by 31% (IRI data Sept 2019). Jeremy Coller, founder of the FAIRR Initiative and chief investment officer at Coller Capital, said: “This is hard evidence that big food brands are vying for their slice of the plant-based pie. They are drastically scaling-up and skilling-up their capacity to research and develop plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy. Tangible goals for a protein transition are being put in place. The post-COVID landscape has made 2020 a watershed year for the sustainable protein market: the sector has attracted double the investment of last year in just six months. This engagement shows which food companies are putting in place the infrastructure and innovation to benefit from this seismic shift in the ways we shop and eat; and those that will lose out. Investors are watching closely.” Unilever has been growing its portfolio of plant-based products and the range now includes: Hellmann’s vegan may in the UK, vegan Magnum globally, Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy in Europe, Knorr vege-chips in Russia, Knorr Selects in the US and The Vegetarian Butcher in Belgium, Netherlands and UK.
Hellmann's Vegan mayo
Hellmann's Vegan mayo
Tesco launched its own Plant Chef range last year, which sits alongside other brands like Wicked Kitchen, THIS and Squeaky Bean in dedicated plant-based and vegetarian zones in stores. Tesco will be pulling out all the stops for Christmas 2020 with impressive new plant-based dishes including a whole vegan turkey crown as well as its 2019 Christmas favourite: Plant Chef Pigless Blankets. Other highlights from the FAIRR report include:
  • Kroger, Coles, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Tesco all have dedicated human resources focused on plant-based product development.
  • Conagra Brands, Kerry Group, Nestle, Saputo, Unilever said they have dedicated individuals or teams focused on alternative protein development, such as new product development or new protein sources.
  • 10% of all Nestlé’s R&D employees are now dedicated solely to the development of plant-based products, while Unilever has invested $94 million in a new innovation centre housing 500 employees with a focus on plant-based innovation for brands like Knorr and Hellmann’s.
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