Unilever-Enough Partnership to Expand Plant-Based Meat Innovation with Abunda Mycoprotein
Unilever is partnering with food-tech company Enough (formerly 3F BIO) to bolster its plant-based strategy by tapping into technology that uses a zero-waste fermentation process to grow a high-quality protein.
Natural fungi are fed with renewable feedstock, such as wheat and corn, to produce Abunda mycoprotein, a complete food ingredient containing all essential amino acids and high in dietary fiber.
Pegged as a “game-changing” protein, Abunda is a natural fit for Unilever’s fast-growing meat-alternative brand, The Vegetarian Butcher, which saw a 70 percent growth last year, uses a diverse blend of plant-based proteins to create meat-like tastes and textures for its wide-ranging portfolio.
Carla Hilhorst, EVP of R&D, Foods and Refreshment, Unilever, explains the key consumer trends and market dynamics driving the company’s continued plant-based push and how this latest partnership with Enough is a significant part of this strategy.
“As one of the world’s largest food companies, we have a critical role to play in helping to transform the global food system. It’s not up to us to decide for people what they want to eat, but it is up to us to make healthier and plant-based options accessible to all,” says Hilhorst.
“We chose Abunda because it has a clean, neutral taste, is highly nutritious (high in protein, fiber and zinc, low in fat and free of cholesterol), and is produced using a highly efficient, zero-waste process.”
Initially, Abunda will be applied to Unilever’s existing meat products under The Vegetarian Butcher brand, but Hilhorst explains the potential to use the technology to innovate new products.
“The Vegetarian Butcher has always explored different proteins as one of the pioneers in the plant-based meat space. There is beauty in blending proteins, and ultimately you need to use the combined properties of many ingredients to create the complex taste and textures our Vegetarian Butcher products are famous for. Abunda will play an important role in the texture of the brand’s future products.”
“We also see potential in other areas where sustainable protein is important, such as non-dairy ice cream or healthy snacking,” Hilhorst reveals.
Alt-meat in fast food
Earlier this year, Unilever’s plant-based brand also expanded its partnership with fast food giant Burger King to launch the Plant-Based Whopper in Latin America, the Caribbean and China. It also produces Plant-Based Nuggets and the Vegan Royale.
The Vegetarian Butcher – which Unilever acquired in 2018 – has a growing portfolio of products targeting meat lovers and flexitarians, vegetarians and vegans alike. It also recently launched a vegan Raw Burger, delivering a beef burger’s taste and juicy tenderness cooked rare.