Unilever tops ranking of firms adopting meat substitutes

30 September 2021

Costco, Kraft Heinz and Amazon (Whole Foods) are the worst performers in a ranking of companies’ adoption of sustainable protein targets.

According to research by the FAIRR initiative, the number of firms adopting formal targets to grow alternative protein offerings is on the rise, growing from zero in 2018 to 28% of companies in 2021.

It listed Unilever, Tesco, Nestlé, Sainsbury’s and Conagra among the best-performing firms. Unilever has committed to reaching $1.2bn in sales of meat and dairy alternatives between 2025-27, the report said.

However, FAIRR warned that 72% (18 out of 25) of food brands have yet to establish formal targets to diversify their protein sources as part of decarbonisation efforts.

This is despite an increase in sales of plant-based food by 43% in the last two years, with the UK meat and dairy alternatives market growing 300% from 2019 to 2020.

FAIRR, an investor network focused on ESG consquences of livestock production, said US companies underperformed dramatically compared with global peers.

According to FAIRR, Costco, Kraft Heinz and Amazon (Whole Foods), along with Kroger, do not report Scope 3 emissions, those relating to animal agriculture, which it says is a critical measure of the environmental footprint of their meat supply chains.

FAIRR said consumer demand for alternative protein products in North America was soaring. Plant-based milk was bought by 39% of US households and plant-based food sales rose nearly twice as much as overall US retail food sales last year.

The report outlined the progress made by the companies overall, including the fact that 48% now tracked and publicly disclosed their emissions from animal agriculture, up from 21% in 2019. Just over half (52%) of the companies in the engagement now had a net zero ambition, up from just 8% in 2019.

Tesco has committed to a 300% increase in sales of meat alternatives by 2025, while Sainsbury’s has plans to grow the volume of sales of plant-based protein and dairy following a 40% increase in plant-based diets in the UK in 2020, according to FAIRR.

Jeremy Coller, chair of the FAIRR Initiative and chief investment officer at Coller Capital, said: “While many companies are lagging, we are pleased that FAIRR has seen visible leadership from 28% of the largest food retailers and manufacturers, including leading UK supermarkets, as well as remarkable innovation in sustainable protein.

“This has been the year of cultivated meat with a record $506m invested in lab-grown meat alternatives, which is now taking its place alongside plant-based protein on investment agendas.”

FAIRR’s ranking:

1. Unilever

2. Tesco

3. Nestlé

4. Sainsbury’s

5. Conagra

6. Kerry Group

7. ICA Gruppen

8. Marks & Spencer

9. Groupe Casino

10. Woolworths

11. Ahold Delhaize

12. Mondelez

13. General Mills

14. Hershey

15. Loblaw

16. Gruppo Nutresa

17. Kroger

18. Carrefour

19. Coles

20. Walmart

21. Saputo

22. Morrisons

23. Amazon

24. Kraft Heinz

25. Costco

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