Jaap Korteweg, founding father of The Vegetarian Butcher. (Source: The Vegetarian Butcher website)

Unilever Acquires Vegetarian Butcher as Diners Cut Meat

(Bloomberg) -- Unilever is acquiring The Vegetarian Butcher, a Dutch maker of plant-based meat substitutes, as part of an ambition to expand its foothold in foods that are healthier and have a lower environmental impact.

In taking over the business, the maker of Dove soap and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is “responding to the growing trend among consumers to increasingly opt for vegetarian and vegan meals,” Unilever said in a statement on Wednesday. Terms of the transaction weren’t disclosed.

Food giants such as Unilever and rival Nestle SA are investing in vegetarian or vegan brands, the demand for which is soaring amid mounting concerns about the environmental impact of meat production. Last year, Nestle acquired Sweet Earth Foods, which sells sandwiches with ingredients such as “Harmless Ham” and “Benevolent Bacon.” Unilever has acquired Sir Kensington’s, a challenger in the vegan-mayo wars.

Unilever and The Vegetarian Butcher started working together two years ago, selling vegetarian meatballs in satay or tomato sauce that were marketed under the Unox brand.

Jaap Korteweg, a ninth-generation meat farmer, became a vegetarian and founded The Vegetarian Butcher in 2007. The company’s products are sold in more than 4,000 outlets in 17 countries. It employs about 90 people, who are expected to remain with the business under Unilever ownership.

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