Welcome, Michel Mellema, Head of Science at Unilever’s brand The Vegetarian Butcher, as our valuable partner of the Global Plant-Based Foods & Proteins EcoSystem Advisory Board. According to Michel: “Cracking the perfect meat analogue is among the most urgent global challenges of our time”. Read on to learn more about Michel Mellema’s involvement in the EcoSystem, and why collaboration is what we need to tackle all fundamental issues.
Why are you a member of the Advisory Board?
In November 2020, Unilever announced a new annual global sales target of €1 billion from plant-based meat and dairy alternatives, within the next five to seven years. Such bold targets mean our products need to appeal to the masses, including meat and dairy lovers. Lowering the sensory and price barrier, and creating assurance on naturalness and nutrition, is going to be crucial. This is a huge task that we cannot do alone. It means stepping up our Science and Technology considerably but also stepping up our communication and supply chain. We need to find like-minded partners that are similarly eager as us to crack all these fundamental issues.
What has the EcoSystem done for you?
A majority of key partners I currently work with I met for the first time at Bridge2food meetings. Bridge2food is the oldest and most thriving community of people wanting to make a difference in plant-based foods. Joining this new initiative of the EcoSystem feels like jumping on a running train. From experience I know there is lots of freedom for the members, there are no dogmatic rules or hidden agendas, it is all about finding a joint agenda and “go for it”. As an example: the EcoSystem has helped us find the best partners in world-class Life Cycle Analysis.
Why is your organisation a partner?
Unilever and the Vegetarian Butcher employees have a strong sense of purpose. The environmental risk of the livestock industry will be of impact to us all at some point, and we need to be ahead of it and stimulate the most powerful collaborative initiatives with our resources. In a way, it’s not an option not to join. There is no Planet B!
What do you think the EcoSystem can do for others in the field?
The whole market of meat and dairy analogues needs to step up in quality and quantity. Helping those around you will not cannibalize your own market, we will jointly grow the total market. I see the EcoSystem hence primarily as a tool to help each other prevent making the obvious mistakes in sensory, and create a strong basis of knowledge on nutrition, naturalness, and sustainability. If one company sells an inferior meat analogue, it will damage the consumer perception of the whole market. It is hence crucial to agree among each other on the most basic features of our products and the way we communicate with society. So: join, listen and share! You can only gain from this.
About Michel Mellema
Michel Mellema is an experienced Foods R&D program manager. He holds a Ph.D. from Wageningen University (2000) and has since worked for Unilever in various positions. He has lead global research on Flora/Becel dairy, AdeS/AdeZ soy drinks, and Knorr jelly concentrates. Since 2020 he is Head of Science and Technology for the brand The Vegetarian Butcher, with the ambition to become the biggest butcher in the world. Michel is the author of 22 articles in peer-reviewed journals, and (co)inventor of over 45 patent families. He is widely regarded as the thought leader in food technology, with an emphasis on plant protein. To learn more about Michel Mellema and his work at Unilever & the Vegetarian Butcher, please contact him through LinkedIn or visit the Vegetarian Butcher Webpage.
About the EcoSystem
275+ Industry Leaders from 110 Organisations are partnering since 2019 in the Global Plant-Based Foods EcoSystem, to accelerate the transition towards a more plant-based diet, with better foods, produced in a sustainable way, as well as increase food security with an abundant supply of proteins for food, feed, and pet food markets.
Innovation, Research & Development Leaders from Food Brands, Ingredient & Processing Companies, Institutes, Universities, Grower Associations, and Breeders collaborate on such a future with concrete actions, deliverables, and outcomes. To be involved in the EcoSystem and to join bi-weekly meetings, you can register here. To get all details on the EcoSystem, you can check out this page.