Unilever adds mycoprotein to its portfolio through partnership

7 Jun 2021

Multinational Unilever has partnered with food tech company Enough to incorporate the startup’s mycoprotein Abunda into its plant-based products portfolio. Enough’s mycoprotein is made using fermentation to create a biomass that the company says uses a startling 97% less water, has 82% lower carbon emissions and requires 97% less feed than traditional beef production.

Unilever referred to Abunda as a “game-changing protein” and said it was a natural fit for a company that is working to pivot its portfolio toward more plant-based offerings. In the next five to seven years, Unilever is looking to sell 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) worth of plant-based meat and dairy alternatives. This partnership is on top of the recent collaboration that Unilever forged with Algenuity to explore the use of algae as a plant-based protein alternative.

Unilever adds mycoprotein to its portfolio through partnership
Courtesy of Enough

Enough is poised to help Unilever meet its plant-based goal. The startup is currently constructing a mycoprotein factory that will have a production capacity of 50,000 tons when it opens in 2022. However, the target is to produce over 1 million tons of mycoprotein annually within the year.

Specifically, Unilever noted that this mycoprotein is an ideal addition to use in its recipes for its recently acquired brand the Vegetarian Butcher, which the company said grew over 70% in 2020. Not only is the Vegetarian Butcher one of the company’s top brands in retail across 45 countries, but the multinational has chosen to aggressively push the product in foodservice with plant-based burger and nugget concepts at Burger King locations in Indonesia, the U.K., China, United Arab Emirates and across Europe.

“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,” Carla Hilhorst, Unilever’s executive vice president of R&D said in a statement.

Recent research from Boston Consulting Group and Blue Horizon Corporation and cited by Unilever suggests that Europe and North America will reach “peak meat” by 2025, and then following that, consumption of conventional meat will start to fall. As a result of this increasing movement toward plant-based, the global meat-free sector is expected to hit US$290 billion in 2035, by which point there will be “realistic alternatives” for nine out of ten of the world’s meat-based dishes.

Unilever is looking to be prepared to cater to this seemingly insatiable demand for protein alternatives. In addition to its partnerships with alternative protein startups, the multinational made an €85 million investment in The Hive, a food innovation center at Wageningen University in the Netherlands to support research into plant-based ingredients and meat alternatives in 2019.

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