FOOD businesses must develop lower-carbon food products to lessen greenhouse gas emissions and sustainably feed the growing population, according to an executive at Unilever.
This is why the multinational consumer goods giant is striving for €1.5 billion in sales annually to be from plant-based products by 2025.
“The Philippines contributes very little greenhouse gas emissions [compared with other countries]. But in reality, the food we consume has a big environmental impact,” Kristine A. Go, general manager for nutrition at Unilever Southeast Asia, said during the BusinessWorld Economic Forum on Thursday.
Unilever has invested in products such as soy-based Magnum and The Vegetarian Butcher, which produces vegetable meat. Such food items contain lower salt, sugar, and fat, and reduce food waste. “The food we produce today actually accounts for 30% of greenhouse gas emissions,” Ms. Go said.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme, the global population is projected to reach 10 billion by 2050, making urgent the goal of safely and sustainably feeding the people.
“Half of our soil has been lost because 75% of our food, made of just 12 plants and five animals, use up the same amount of nutrients. Unless we rotate and diversify our diet, we end up damaging the soil, losing more water, and destroying the planet,” Ms. Go said.
Unilever’s global Foods Innovation Centre in the Netherlands, known as “Hive,” has come up with a science-based food technology wheel:
Natural and nutritious food — fortifying Unilever products with nutrients based on each country’s needs, such as Knorr Cubes in the Philippines being fortified with iron to address iron deficiency;
Microstructure and textures — plant-based products mimicking the texture of meat such as in burger patties;
Culinary experiences — making sure items like the vegan Magnum still have the recognizable taste of their original counterpart;
Innovative processing — digitizing the food process from harvesting to delivery to reduce waste and make processes more efficient;
Sustainable packaging — Unilever’s ice cream containers now being converted to paper and Hellmann’s bottles indicating the optimal temperature to preserve them;
Regenerative agriculture — local plantations producing dwarf coconut trees from interstock to help the soil, use less water, and create more livelihood opportunities.
Ms. Go said these strategies show that food can both taste good and be environmentally friendly. “It’s a lot harder to change diets and habits so that’s why we try to change our products,” she said.
On the manufacturing side, Unilever now has six factories all over the world that use innovative processing. — Brontë H. Lacsamana