Unilever packaging

LONDON — With veganism on the rise and sustainability fast becoming a priority across a range of businesses, Unilever is pursuing its environmental agenda with plans to add The Vegetarian Butcher to its stable of food brands.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed, although Unilever said the deal is set to close before the end of 2018. The Vegetarian Butcher employs approximately 90 people, who are expected to remain with the business under Unilever ownership.

Unilever had been working with The Vegetarian Butcher, the Netherlands-based maker of meat-free meals, since 2016 when they jointly launched dishes such as Vegetarian Meatballs in Satay Sauce and Vegetarian Meatballs in Tomato Sauce dishes that were marketed under the Unox brand in the Netherlands.

“The acquisition fits with Unilever’s strategy to expand its portfolio into plant-based foods that are healthier and have a lower environmental impact,” the company said Wednesday. “With this acquisition, Unilever is responding to the growing trend among consumers to increasingly opt for vegetarian and vegan meals. For The Vegetarian Butcher, the acquisition is the next step in its ambition to grow into the largest butcher in the world.”

The Vegetarian Butcher was founded by in 2007 by Jaap Korteweg, a ninth-generation meat farmer who became a vegetarian to satisfy his personal need for quality “meat” that was not produced from animals.

The Vegetarian Butcher products are being sold in more than 4,000 outlets in 17 countries.

“It is our mission to make plant-based ‘meat’ the standard. We believe that with Unilever’s international network, this acquisition will help to accelerate our mission,” Korteweg said.

Unilever said the purchase is another step on its journey to offer more plant-based products. The consumer giant sells nearly 700 products with a V-label in Europe. In the Netherlands, these include products from Unox, Knorr, Hellmann’s, Conimex and Ben & Jerry’s brands.

Nitin Paranjpe, president of foods and refreshment at Unilever, said The Vegetarian Butcher “will fit in well within our portfolio of ‘brands with purpose,’ which have a positive social impact, are better positioned to meet the needs of consumers and are growing faster. Importantly, this acquisition will help us to accelerate our journey toward more plant-based food.”