As part of Unilever’s stated commitment to sustainable living, the British-Dutch multinational has just opened a new Food Innovation Centre in a leading global agri-food research hub in the Netherlands. Located on the campus at Wageningen, the research centre will look to drive healthy and sustainable innovation in the food industry.
Unilever has invested €85m in the venture which will research into nutritious foods using in particular plant-based ingredients and meat alternatives. It will also study efficient crops and sustainable food packaging.
Unilever’s stated aims are with its partners “to transform the food industry into a healthy and sustainable system, driving innovations that are healthier for people and for the planet”.
Brands like Knorr, Hellmann’s, the Vegetarian Butcher and Calvė Omo, Hearthbrand ice creams, Lipton and Magnum will hope to benefit from the research to be undertaken here.
A fundamental transformation of the food system is needed
“We need a fundamental transformation of the food system if we are to feed more than 9 billion people sustainably and nutritiously,” said Alan Jope, Unilever’s CEO. “Malnutrition, obesity, climate change and food waste are issues that can only be addressed if we work in partnership to accelerate technology and innovation. Having a global research and development centre in Wageningen will enable us to do exactly this.”
The building called the “Hive” is located in an area which has been dubbed “Food Valley” in recognition of the start-ups, science institutes and NGOs that are involved in agrifood tech there. The nickname, of course, pays homage to Silicon Valley.
Hanneke Faber, Unilever’s President Global Foods & Refreshment, said the company was excited to be in the eco-system with the potential to collaborate with “professors, students, scientists, other companies – scale-ups, start-ups”.
For the Food Valley, its director Roger van Hoesel said that Unilever’s presence represents “a unique opportunity”.
Unilever’s energy-neutral Foods Innovation Centre, the “Hive” has rated “Outstanding” by the Dutch BREEAM assessment body for environmental performance, and “is one of the most sustainable multifunctional buildings in the world”.
Unilever has over 400 brands and its food and beverages represent about 40 per cent of its revenue. Other divisions include cleaning agents, beauty products and personal care products. It is Europe’s seventh most valuable company. It already has research and development facilities in the UK, the Netherlands, China, India and the USA.
His Majesty the King of the Netherlands was present to officially open the Hive.