Unilever is acquiring Dutch meat substitute company The Vegetarian Butcher, as it looks to expand its portfolio of plant-based foods.
Jaap Korteweg, a ninth-generation meat farmer, became a vegetarian and founded The Vegetarian Butcher in 2007 to satisfy his own need for quality ‘meat’ which was not produced from animals.
The firm’s product range – which includes ‘vegan smokey hotdog’, ‘vegan nochicken nuggets’ and ‘vegan nomince’ – are sold in more than 4,000 outlets in 17 countries.
Unilever and The Vegetarian Butcher started working together in 2016 when they jointly launched ‘vegetarian meatballs in satay sauce’ and ‘vegetarian meatballs in tomato sauce’, which were marketed under the Unox brand.
Currently, Unilever sells nearly 700 vegetarian products in Europe. In the Netherlands, these include products from Unox, Knorr, Hellmann’s, Conimex and Ben & Jerry’s brands.
With the acquisition, Unilever said it is responding to the growing trend among consumers to increasingly opt for vegetarian and vegan meals.
According to IGD research published earlier this year, 52% of British grocery shoppers say they either follow or are interested in following a plant-based diet. Health and ethics are said to be the main motivators for ditching meat.
Nitin Paranjpe, president of foods and refreshment at Unilever, 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.
“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.”
The Vegetarian Butcher employs approximately 90 people, who are expected to remain with the business under Unilever ownership.
The acquisition is being made for an undisclosed sum and is expected to be completed before the end of 2018.
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