Today, we have officially opened a new state-of-the-art global Foods Innovation Centre in the Netherlands.

It’s called Hive and it’s located on the Wageningen Campus, the world’s most renowned and respected agri-food ecosystem.

Hive is a high-tech facility with 18,000m2 of collaboration space, a pilot plant, a customer experience area, five test kitchens, and two levels of laboratories and offices.

The building has been designed so our research and development teams can co-create with partners, customers and consumers, while tapping into the campus’s network of start-ups, knowledge institutes and academics.

As Manfred Aben, Vice President R&D and Head of the Foods Innovation Centre, says: “Hive will allow a more open, revolutionary way of co-working. By bringing all these people together in one vibrant and inspiring innovation powerhouse, we can turn bright ideas into the healthy, sustainable foods of the future.”

The Centre, which was opened by His Majesty the King of the Netherlands, will be the focal point for innovation activity across all our food brands including Knorr, Hellmann’s, The Vegetarian Butcher and Calvé.

Hive will allow a more open, revolutionary way of co-working, bringing people together in one vibrant and inspiring innovation powerhouse.

Manfred Aben

Built with sustainability in mind

As you’d expect from a building that will be home to people working on the very future of food, it was designed and built with sustainability and circularity at its core.

Hive is energy neutral, powered by over 1,800 solar panels with daylight maximized to help reduce overall energy consumption. It incorporates an innovative way of filtering air to improve health. And rainwater is harvested to use in the gardens and washrooms. Wherever possible, the building parts come from recycled or sustainable origins and are designed to be reused in the future.

It’s a perfect illustration of what sustainable architecture actually means in practice. So much so, it has received the BREEAM Outstanding Certification and two BREEAM awards for sustainable design. BREEAM is the world's leading independent sustainability assessment method.

A gathering of experts

To mark the opening of Hive, we hosted a symposium on Foods as a Force for Good. Experts from the foods industry, government organizations and NGOs gathered to discuss how innovation and technology can transform the foods sector towards a healthy and sustainable system.

Three panel sessions covered: the opportunities to create a more inclusive, sustainable and efficient system that’s better for the planet; the actions required to help people eat more nutritious foods; and the partnerships and investments needed to speed up innovation and technology for foods systems transformation.

Guest speakers included: Mette Lykke, CEO of Too Good To Go; Diane Holdorf, Managing Director of Food and Nature at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development; Louise Fresco, President of Wageningen University & Research; and Bertrand Swiderski, Chief Sustainability Officer at Carrefour.

These partnerships will catalyse new solutions for the foods of tomorrow and demonstrate that change at scale is achievable.

Alan Jope

The need for speed

As one of the largest consumer goods companies in the world, we’re mindful of how we must play our part in helping address the enormous challenges faced by the global food system.

By 2050, more than 9 billion people will need 70% more food than is consumed today. And over 2 billion people will lack the food they need.

Obesity has more than doubled worldwide since 1980. And yet, every year tonnes of food doesn’t even make it onto the shelves. It’s lost to poor logistics or inadequate storage.

Then there’s all the food that never gets eaten. Consumers in industrialized countries throw out the equivalent amount of food per year as sub-Saharan Africa’s entire annual harvest. And this in a world where 800 million people still go to bed hungry every night.

Clearly, something has to change – and this is where the scale and reach of our brands can play a role.

We want to live up to our mission to create products that taste good, make people feel good, and are a true force for good, whether that’s through cutting sugar and calories, or introducing more plant-based options.

"We need a fundamental transformation of the food system if we want to make a genuine difference and feed more than 9 billion people sustainably and nutritiously,” says Unilever CEO Alan Jope. “Malnutrition, obesity, climate change and food waste are issues that can only be addressed if we work in partnership to accelerate technology and innovation."

“The unique location of the Global Foods Innovation Centre enables Unilever to step up our engagement with Wageningen University & Research and a broad variety of science institutes, start-ups, NGOs and other companies in the foods sector. These partnerships will catalyse new solutions for the foods of tomorrow and demonstrate that change at scale is achievable.”

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