Main own plant-based brands
The Vegetarian Butcher, Sir Kensington’s, Graze; some vegan products in Knorr, Unox, Hellman’s, Magnum, Ben& Jerry’s and Breyers.
- Unilever’s Foods & Refreshments business contributes to around 40% of company revenues, with food brands contributing around a quarter of total revenues. They have said that a sizable portion of their foods & refreshments business contains animal protein – 20-40% of revenues dependent on cattle products (based on CDP disclosures). However, we assume sourcing volumes are low given that they have also reported that greenhouse gas emissions from animal agriculture accounted for only 2.5% for Unilever (and 7.5% for their food and refreshments segment).
- Unilever acknowledges the risks of excessive animal protein consumption for people and planet. They have also acknowledged that they have role to play in helping consumers transition diets.
- The company has acquired plant-based companies such as Sir Kensington’s and The Vegetarian Butcher. Many of their brands such as Knorr, Magnum and Ben & Jerrys now have plant-based products. The company demonstrates collaborations on this issue, including a report published in partnership with WWF on plant-based foods through their Knorr brand. They are also addressing the impacts of their animal sourcing through clear requirements for livestock suppliers. They lead their peers by publishing their greenhouse gas emissions associated with animal agriculture.
- However, the company is also making strategic investments in dairy-based businesses, including ice-cream brands in India, Bulgaria and Romania.
They are tracking information internally but have not yet developed and publicly disclosed targets or metrics that can help them undertake a portfolio transition. Further, their work is centred in their US and European markets, and it is unclear how this will play out in other markets such as India and Latin America.
- Unilever’s consumer engagement is ad-hoc – it is unclear how their marketing on plant-based brands compares with other brands (for example, in terms of spend). We would encourage the company to build a more strategic plan to transition its product portfolio (through, for example, brand/business segment targets) to ensure any exposure to animal proteins is in line with a low-carbon strategy.
As one of the largest global food companies, we believe in nutritious diets that include more variety, seasonal foods, more fruit and vegetables, legumes and wholegrains, and more healthy oils and plant-based foods. Our food and drink products help millions of people access nutritious ingredients every day. And each year, people enjoy 170 billion cups of tea, our plant-based beverage by design, from brands like Lipton, Brooke Bond, PG Tips and Pure Leaf.
We are committed to expanding our portfolio of plant-based products to respond to consumer demand for flexitarian diets. By promoting plant-based alternatives and committing to sourcing 100% of our agricultural raw materials sustainably, we will reduce our environmental impact and provide people with more choice. Our recent acquisitions such as The Vegetarian Butcher will expand this choice further.
Our brands are well placed to drive this change. We do this through offering dairy-free options through our well-known and much-loved ice brands like Cornetto, Ben & Jerry’s and Magnum. In our foods portfolio, we have launched a variety of vegan offerings under Hellmann’s and Knorr. And Knorr is driving this transformation with the launch of the future 50 Foods report, supported with ongoing consumer activity through websites, product innovations, recipe development on pack and online and big social media presence via Instagram. We also experiment with newly developed brands like plant-based snack pots REDRED and PrepCo, available in the UK.
As well as offering plant-based consumer products, our food service business Unilever Food Solutions (UFS) helps chefs around the world to offer more plant-based options in their menus. UFS supports chefs by providing recipe inspiration, training and a vegetarian portfolio of products.