Unilever will partner with food-tech company ENOUGH to expand its plant-based meat offerings.
The partnership is expected to align with the No. 6 consumer goods company’s The Vegetarian Butcher brand, which grew more than 70% in 2020 and is now available in 45 countries, including through a partnership with Burger King.
ENOUGH, formerly 3F BIO, leverages a zero-waste fermentation process to grow a protein source. Natural fungi are fed with renewable feedstock that include wheat and corn, which produces a mycoprotein said to contain all essential amino acids.
Unilever partnered with biotech company Algenuity in a similar effort last year, with that startup working within Unilever’s foods and refreshment R&D team to explore ways of bringing foods made with a microalgae altnerative protein for use in consumer products.
U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods grew 27% in 2020, according to the Plant Based Foods Association and The Good Food Institute (GFI), which valued the market at $7 billion. The category reportedly grew twice as fast as conventional meat, to account for 2.7% of retail packaged meat sales.
The overall global meat-free category is expected to reach $290 billion in 2025, research Unilever shared from Boston Consulting Group and Blue Horizon show, and represents one of Unilever’s fastest-growing segments.
Carla Hilhorst, Unilever executive VP of R&D for foods and refreshment, said the company is excited by the potential the technology has for future portfolio innovations, and intends to launch more plant-based foods.