Unilever accelerates its 'plant-based journey' with Vegetarian Butcher buyout

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

© The Vegetarian Butcher
© The Vegetarian Butcher
Unilever will acquire plant-based meat alternative brand The Vegetarian Butcher. "This acquisition will help us to accelerate our journey towards more plant-based food," it says.

The deal, announced yesterday and expected to be completed in the coming weeks, will add The Vegetarian Butcher products such as ‘nochicken chunks’ and ‘naked chickburgers’, to Unilever's portfolio.

The acquisition fitted with Unilever's strategy to expand into better-for-you plant-based products with a lower environmental impact, it said. "With this acquisition, Unilever is responding to the growing trend among consumers to increasingly opt for vegetarian and vegan meals.​"

Since opening a small concept store in The Hague in 2010, The Vegetarian Butcher’s founder and CEO, Jaap Korteweg, has built up the brand to become a global name that is now sold in over 4,000 retail outlets in 17 countries.

Korteweg began working with Unilever in 2016 when they jointly launched two vegetarian meatball ready meals under the Dutch Unox brand.

According to Korteweg, the Unilever buy-out will help The Vegetarian Butcher achieve its ambition of becoming the largest butcher in the world.  

It is our mission to make plant-based ‘meat’ the standard. We believe that with Unilever’s international network, this acquisition will help to accelerate our mission," ​he said.

President of Unilever’s food and refreshment division Nitin Paranjpe said: “The Vegetarian Butcher is a brand with a clear mission, many loyal ambassadors, a good following on social media and a strong position in the market.

Click here to read our 2016 interview with Jaap Korteweg: ‘What turned a ninth generation meat farmer into a plant-based pioneer?’

“The brand will fit in well within our portfolio of ‘brands with purpose’, which have a positive social impact, are better positioned to meet the needs of consumers and are growing faster. Importantly, this acquisition will help us to accelerate our journey towards more plant-based food.”

In 2016, the Anglo-Dutch soup-to-soap manufacturer announced plans to add the European Vegetarian Union’s ‘V’ logo to over 500 of its products​. Today the green and yellow logo is on nearly 700 brands, including Unox, Knorr, Hellmann’s and Conimex in the Netherlands.

Delivering the company’s first quarterly results of 2018, Unilever chief financial officer Graeme Pitkethly, said Unilever had a clear set of strategic objectives in foods and refreshment​, which included “modernising the portfolio​”.

It has done so, in part, by focussing on fast-growing segments such as free-from, vegan and health and wellness. Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy vegan ice cream has now expanded to Europe while Breyers Delights, a low-calorie, high protein ice cream brand, has launched in 11 countries.

Unilever said The Vegetarian Butcher’s 90 or so employees were “expected to remain with the business​” under Unilever ownership.

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