Improving nutrition

This work supports the following UN Sustainable Development Goals

  • Good Health and Wellbeing
  • Partnership For The Goals
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More plant-based options

We are adding more plant-based products to our portfolio.

Vegan BLT

People’s eating habits are changing

When choosing what foods and drinks to buy, most people consider taste as the first priority. More and more people also want to know that the products they are buying are not only nutritious, but also have limited impact on the planet, and that farm workers have been paid fairly and treated well. The scientific basis for future diets – that are healthy for both people and planet – was recently published by the EAT Lancet Commission. This represents a significant step forward in building global consensus and collaborative action around food system transformation.

The EAT-Lancet report concluded that dietary changes from current diets to more plant-based diets are likely to substantially benefit human health.1 Different studies have indeed shown that plant-based diets are associated with improved glycaemic control, reduced risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Moreover, there are clear indications from science that plant-based diets are generally associated with a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular diseases2, and a reduced risk of overall cancer incidence and/or mortality.3 Moreover, the report of the EAT-Lancet Commission showed that increased consumption of plant-based diets would have a reduced environmental impact. In the report, it was concluded that plant-based diets could reduce emissions by up to 80% for example.


Conducting research into plant-based nutrition


Regina Gajcy

Regina Gajcy, R&D Project Leader

As the health and environmental side-effects of excessive meat consumption continue to grow, more and more people are on the lookout for healthier, more sustainable solutions for protein intake. To cater to this increasing demand for plant-based nutrition, Regina and her cross-functional team, have conducted significant research into tasty meat alternatives. This resulted in the introduction of the Knorr Vego meal range in 2018, made with delicious vegetarian meat replacers.

“Our biggest challenge was maintaining the flavour after the necessary heat treatment that occurs when the product is cooked in the sauce,” Regina explains. “We also had to do a lot of work to adjust the texture of the products, to ensure they could withstand the thermal process.

“The final recipes are full of vegetables, packed with fibre, contain only recognisable ingredients and are free from preservatives, taste enhancers and colourants. So far, they’re available in Finland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, and they’re already proving popular.”

Helping millions of people access plant-based ingredients

We believe in nutritious diets that include more variety, seasonal foods, less meat, 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.

Spotlight

Vegetarian Butcher

The Vegetarian Butcher

Jaap Korteweg was a ninth-generation meat farmer and a real meat lover. However, by 2007 he had become vegetarian and wanted to satiate his own need for quality ‘meat’, which wasn’t produced from animals. So he founded The Vegetarian Butcher. The products made by The Vegetarian Butcher are now sold in over 4,000 outlets in 17 countries. Unilever started working with Jaap and his team in 2016 when we jointly launched Unox ‘Vegetarian Meatballs in Satay Sauce’ and ‘Vegetarian Meatballs in Tomato Sauce’.

In 2018, we acquired The Vegetarian Butcher, which fits perfectly with our strategy to expand our portfolio of plant-based foods. For The Vegetarian Butcher, the acquisition is the next step in its ambition to grow into ‘the largest butcher in the world’. “Unilever’s international network across 190 countries, provides every opportunity to accomplish this,” says founder Jaap.

As well as offering plant-based consumer products, Unilever Food Solutions (UFS) helps chefs around the world to offer more plant-based options in their menus. Classically trained chefs often focus on meat preparation, despite increasing demand for plant-based menu options. UFS supports chefs by providing recipe inspiration, training and a vegetarian portfolio of products. UFS Germany’s Knorr Veggie Food, for example, provides three plant-based meat alternatives, made from soy mince and pieces, and bean-quinoa. All are vegan, lactose-free, high in fibre and protein. And all fit into a diet of maximum 5g of salt per day, as recommended by the World Health Organization. The soy options are also gluten free.

In addition, we want to make it easier for people to find their dietary preferences on the shelf. For example, we’ve added the European Vegetarian Union’s logo to over 1,000 of our products. The infographic below shows examples of our products containing plant-based ingredients.

Plant based products

Delicious, dairy-free ice cream

More and more consumers are looking for plant-based, dairy-free alternatives. In response to this increasing demand, we’ve expanded our ice cream portfolio with non-dairy and vegan offerings.

Our Swedish Glace ice cream, for example, has a satisfying, creamy taste but is 100% vegan. And after the successful 2017 launch of our Cornetto vegan ice cream in Italy, we introduced it to several other European countries in 2018. This is made with soy ice cream and has a crunchy, gluten-free wafer cone.

We launched two new Magnum vegan ice cream variants, using plant-based pea protein. Vegan Classic and Vegan Almond Magnum are now on sale in several countries across Europe and Australia. We also introduced two non-dairy Breyers variants in the US, made with almond milk.

Finally, our Ben & Jerry’s range includes a new line of non-dairy pints in the US and also in several countries in Europe. These are made with almond milk, are certified vegan and use five Fairtrade certified ingredients: sugar, cocoa, vanilla, coffee and bananas.

We will continue to offer plant-based ice cream products that consumers enjoy, in line with demand for more nutritious and sustainable products.

Spotlight

non dairy ice cream

Chunks & swirls for dairy-free ice cream lovers

A few years ago, vegans and people who couldn't eat dairy began to ask Ben & Jerry's to create non-dairy versions of their favourite ice creams. There was even a Change.Org petition urging us to create dairy-free options. We listened, and in 2016 introduced our first vegan/non-dairy frozen dessert.

Since then, Ben & Jerry’s vegan/non-dairy range has expanded to 11 flavours in North America and Europe, including the new Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. And it's proving popular - vegan/non-dairy is among the fastest-growing subcategories of ice cream globally.

"As well as offering something for everyone, expanding our non-dairy/plant-based ice cream range will help us accelerate our carbon reductions," explains Ran Harel, our Global Ice Cream R&D Director. "That's because a significant part of our carbon footprint comes from the milk that we use. Our goal is to reduce our carbon by 40% per pint container by 2025, and 80% per pint container by 2050.”

1 Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. Commissioned by The Lancet, published 17th January 2019 and authored by scientists and researchers from around the globe. http://www.thelancet.com/commissions/EAT

2 Dinu, M., et al., Vegetarian, vegan diets and multiple health outcomes: a systematic review with meta-analysis of observational studies. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr, 2016: 57(17):3640-3649; Satija, A. et al. Plant-Based dietary patterns and incidence of Type 2 Diabetes in US men and women: Results from three prospective cohort studies. PLoS Med 2016. 13(6):e1002039

3 Dinu, M., et al., Vegetarian, vegan diets and multiple health outcomes: a systematic review with meta-analysis of observational studies. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr, 2016: 57(17):3640-3649; Schwingshackl, L. and G. Hoffmann, Adherence to Mediterranean diet and risk of cancer: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Cancer Med, 2015. 4(12): p. 1933-47; Salehi-Abargouei, A., et al., Effects of Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)-style diet on fatal or nonfatal cardiovascular diseases--incidence: a systematic review and meta-analysis on observational prospective studies. Nutrition, 2013. 29(4): p. 611-8

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