On Wednesday, in a statement Unilever stated, it expects sales of its plant-based dairy and meat products to touch 1 billion euros sales in the next 5 to 7 years. Unilever is seeing a growth in this sector thanks to rising sales in its Vegetarian Butcher brand and vegan varieties of Wall’s and Magnum ice cream and Hellmann’s mayonnaise.
Unilever aims to quintuple its business, said Hanneke Faber, president of Unilever’s foods and refreshment business.
“It will require really, really high growth rates,” said Faber. “It’s a scary target honestly, but I think it’s important that we set it.”
Plant-based dairy and meat alternatives have been one of the fastest-growing sector in recent years in the packaged food market. However, earlier this month, Los Angeles-based Beyond Meat surprised investors with lower-than-expected sales and posted a quarterly loss.
Some of Unilever’s vegan products, much its peers, have higher price points than the real thing, which could turn off cash-strapped shoppers in a recession.
Case in point, at Britain’s biggest supermarket chain Tesco, a 200 gram pack of Vegetarian Butcher mince sets you back by £2.75 if you buy it online; this is equal to £13.75 per kilogram; however Tesco prices its organic beef steak mince at £4.65 for 500 grams – £9.30/kg.
“Scale is going to make a difference over time,” opined Faber while adding that it will be a few years before prices come down enough to be comparable, though its vegan mayonnaise could be comparable sooner.
In 2019, Unilever acquired Vegetarian Butcher and expanded its market to more than 30 countries.
In July, in a report, Polaris Market Research forecast that the global plant-based meat market is likely to grow at 15.8% a year over the next seven years from $11 billion in 2019. Growing demand for veganism along with heightened nutritional awareness and pandemic-fueled health concerns is driving growth in this sector.
When asked about acquisitions in plant-based food, Faber said: “Organic growth will be our priority, but never say never”.