Upfield, formerly Unilever’s margarine division, wants to set up an R&D centre on Wageningen campus, it announced on 10 June. Upfield Group, the producer of such well-known margarine brands as Becel and Blue Band, wants to invest 50 million euros in an ultra- modern Upfield Food Science Centre. The company sees the campus as a ‘world-class location’ for food innovation. The plan is for the research centre to be built by the end of 2021.
Upfield was part of Unilever until two years ago, but when shareholders put pressure on Unilever boss Paul Polman to improve Unilever’s shareholder value, he put the company’s margarine division up for sale. After a bidding war, it was acquired by the investment company KKR for 6.8 billion euros. It kept the division intact under the new name Upfield.
The new company wants to add quality and improve the profit margins of its margarine brands Becel, Blue Band and Croma, currently seen as solid, relatively cheap basic products.
Upfield also wants to find replacements for artificial ingredients such as artificial citric acid so that in future all ingredients will be plant-based and natural in origin. In addition, the company wants to replace its plastic packaging with sustainable plastic and recycled materials.