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When Unilever, the owner of Hellmann’s Mayonnaise, caught wind that Hampton Creek was making a creamy, plant-based condiment and advertising it as “mayo,” they pretty much lost it. The almighty Association of Dressings and Sauces swooped in,  a lawsuit was filed, and an official mayo war began. Despite all of the bad blood, at the end of the day, Unilever decided to drop the case, and then a handful of months later, set out to make a vegan mayo of their own! It looks like the company is taking the “if you can’t beat them, join them” approach.

According to Food Business News, in a recent conference call with analysts, Andrew Stephen the head of investor relations at Unilever, stated that the conglomerate was seeing excellent traction in their portfolio with products that “meet the growing demand for authentic, fresh, natural and sustainably-sourced products.” Stephen made a point to note that Hellmann’s new vegan mayonnaise or as they prefer to call it, “Carefully Crafted Dressing and Sandwich Spread,” was seeing good responses in the U.S market.

As a result of the mayonnaise giant’s success, Unilever has decided to reposition their butter line in the UK, Flora Spreads, as a “Powered by Plants” product, not only emphasizing the fact that the item is made from natural plant oils, and not from animal-sourced fats but also introducing a dairy-free variant for those looking to avoid dairy in their diet. Stephen also mentioned the recent success they’ve had with Ben & Jerry’s new non-dairy ice cream line. “In ice cream, Ben & Jerry’s shows the power of combining a purpose-led brand with innovations, like the recent launches of Wich sandwiches for snacking and a non-dairy ice cream made from almond milk,” said Stephen.

Unilever’s decision to put a focus on more natural food products proves that the rise of shifting consumer habits cannot be ignored. On average, one-third of Americans are choosing to leave meat off their plates more frequently and dairy consumption has been steadily declining since the 1970s. On the flip side, plant-based meat and dairy alternatives have seen remarkable growth. 

“Non-dairy milk sales are up 30 percent since 2011, representing a $2 billion category, and growth is expected to continue outpacing dairy milk sales at least through 2018. Additionally, the meat alternative market is projected to hit a $5.2 billion worth by 2020. There’s never been a better time to invest in this future,”said Nil Zacharias, Co-Founder of One Green Planet.”These trends are being driven by people broadly understanding how diet affects their health, concerns around the use of hormones and antibiotics in producing meat, the treatment animals in factory farms, and how food choices have a very real impact on the planet.”

While in the past, a conglomerate like Unilever may have the resources to spend millions on lobbying and advertising to convince consumers to buy whatever they were selling, it’s clear that the balance of power has shifted.  If enough people want better foods that are not only good for their health but also the health of the planet, companies like Unilever have no option but to change. We have the power to transform the food system, and we made this change possible.  Let’s get more people to #EatForThePlanet and make healthy, clean, sustainable and plant-based food the norm.

Image source: Mushroom, Beet, Bean Burger