Knorr Future 50 Foods – Eating Our Way to a Better Future

It’s staggering to realise that only twelve plant and five animal species make up 75% of what the whole world eats, and that just three foods – wheat, rice, and maize – comprise 60% of our plant-based intake. The impact of this on soil, biodiversity, agriculture, and human nutrition is enormous – you can read more about it here.

Knorr, Unilever’s biggest food brand, decided to address this challenge. They brought together a team of experts to identify 50 foods that would lead to a more sustainable world if we ate more of them. Some of them you will be familiar with, but some of them I certainly had never come across. Cowpeas, Fonio, or Moringa anyone? (You can check out the 50 foods here). These foods were chosen based on the contribution they can make to human nutrition and to greater agrobiodiversity, making our food supply more resilient.

This could have been just another report highlighting something we could do better. But what I love most about this innovation is that it has been woven into all the company’s activities. They are investing in helping farmers across the world to grow these ingredients, and they have used their clout to influence change in other organisations they interact with. Not only have Knorr undertaken to reformulate products, and create new ones, using these 50 ingredients, they have used the heft of their catering arm, Unilever Food Solutions, to bring partners such as Sodexo (who make 50 million meals a day) on board with commitments to use more of these ingredients. The Knorr consumer division has created an imaginative recipe book, and recipe hub which both encourages home cooks to use these ingredients as well as explaining their benefits. Carrefour, their retail partner, has signed up to stocking more of these foods.

Upstream they are supporting growers to grow both these 50 ingredients, and other foodstuffs, in a more sustainable way, reducing impact on the climate. Knorr’s plan for 50 regenerative agricultural projects is part of the Unilever Climate & Nature Fund, a €1 billion fund that will accelerate the brand’s work on nature and climate projects. Knorr’s plan will contribute to Unilever’s commitment to help protect and regenerate 1.5 million hectares of land, forests, and oceans by 2030.

Having been Marketing Director of Unilever’s food company in Ireland (W&C McDonalds) early in my career – at a time when Knorr was our major competitor (Knorr was acquired by Unilever in 2000) – and having held global brand positions within Unilever, I know how much effort, persuasion, co-ordination and creativity is required to align all aspects of the business behind an audacious strategic goal like this.

It’s stories like this that give me the inspiration and hope business can and will step up to play its part in addressing climate change.


This is the first in a year long series of weekly blogs by Jean Callanan. Read about the thinking behind the series here.