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Food Giants Beef Up Plant-Based Products With Human Capital

Food Giants Beef Up Plant-Based Products With Human Capital
FAIRR research found that seven of 15 retailers asked now sell, or plan to sell, plant-based meat alternatives "on the meat aisle."

Two in five global food giants now have dedicated teams to develop and sell plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy, according to research from the FAIRR investor network. The same month that Kroger saw meat plant-based options soar when merchandised in the meat department, and the same day that Trader Joe's announced it's carrying the Impossible Burger, FAIRR reports that more than $1.1 billion of venture investment has flowed into alternative proteins in the first half of 2020, more than double last year's total investment. 

Tesco and Unilever was ranked at the top by investors for their their commitment to shift food portfolios to more sustainable protein sources, demonstrating board-level support for a climate-aligned protein transition and completing a climate "scenario analysis" on their commodity supply chains.

"The post-COVID landscape has made 2020 a watershed year for the sustainable protein market: The sector has attracted double the investment of last year in just six months," said Jeremy Coller, founder of FAIRR and chief investment officer at London-based Coller Capital. "This engagement shows which food companies are putting in place the infrastructure and innovation to benefit from this seismic shift in the ways we shop and eat, and those that will lose out. Investors are watching closely." 

The FAIRR research noted the following when it comes to companies responding to alternative-protein growth:

  • Kroger, Coles, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, and Tesco all have dedicated human resources focused on plant-based product development.
  • Half of the engaged manufacturers (Conagra Brands, Kerry Group, Nestlé, Saputo, Unilever) said that they have dedicated individuals or teams focused on alternative-protein development, such as new product development or new protein sources.
  • 10% of all Nestlé R&D employees are now dedicated solely to the development of plant-based products, while Unilever has invested $94 million in a new innovation center housing 500 employees with a focus on plant-based innovation for brands like Knorr and Hellmann’s.

FAIRR's Sustainable Proteins Hub includes 10 manufacturers — Unilever, Nestlé, Kerry Group, Conagra, General Mills, Grupo Nutresa, Hershey, Kraft Heinz, Mondelez and Saputo — and 15 retailers — Tesco, M&S, Sainsbury’s, Groupe Casino, ICA Gruppen, Carrefour, Loblaw, Morrison’s, Woolworths, Ahold Delhaize, Kroger, Coles, Walmart, Amazon, and Costco.

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