Upfield (company)

Upfield is a company selling multiple brands of margarine and other food spreads, including Flora, Blue Band, Stork, Becel, Country Crock and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!. It is the largest plant-based consumer packaged goods company in the world, operating in 95 countries.[1]

Upfield Holdings B.V.
IndustryConsumer goods
Founded2018 (2018) (by spin-off)
Area served
Key people
David Haines, CEO
ProductsMargarines, spreads

Upfield was spun off from Unilever and purchased by investment firm KKR in 2018.


Margarine was one of the first products sold by the company that would become known as Unilever.[2] Antoon Jurgens of Oss, Netherlands, acquired the patent for making margarine from its inventor Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès in 1871.[3] Through a series of mergers Jurgens' company became Margarine Unie in 1927 and then Unilever in 1929.[4] Since that time, Unilever has added other margarine and food spread brands.

Although the food spreads division of Unilever maintained a robust profit margin, in the 21st century sales declined as many consumers switched to more natural foods, like butter. In the five years leading to 2014, sales of margarine fell 6% while sales of butter rose 7%.[5]

Following a February 2017 takeover attempt by Kraft Heinz, Unilever chief executive Paul Polman made a pledge to investors to boost returns. In April of the same year, Unilever put the margarine and spreads division up for sale with the intention of returning the net cash from the sale to shareholders.[6]

The sale sparked a bidding war among buyout firms including Apollo Global Management, CVC Capital Partners, Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, and Bain Capital. According to Bloomberg, it was the biggest-leveraged buyout in Europe in 2017.[2] In December 2017, Unilever accepted an offer of €6.8bn from investment firm KKR. The purchase, which was completed in July 2018, was funded by European and North American private equity funds that are under KKR's control.[7] The brands in the sale represented about 7% of Unilever's global business.[8]

Products and operations

Upfield's notable brands include Flora, Stork, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, Rama, Country Crock, Becel, and Blue Band.[9]

David Haines, non-executive director of Tobacco company Imperial Brands, was appointed CEO in July 2018.[10] As of August 2018, other members of the executive board include Detlef Schmitz (General Counsel), Gerry Mulvin (Transformation Office/M&A), Afzaal Malik (Corporate Affairs), Jesper Andersen (CFO), Gordon von Bretten (Interim COO), John Verbakel (Chief R&D Officer), and Eve Baldwin (Chief HR Officer).[11]


  1. "Upfield". www.upfield.com. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  2. Buckley, Thomas (15 December 2017). "Unilever Sells Spreads Business to KKR for $8.1 Billion". www.bloomberg.com. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  3. Rupp, Rebecca (13 August 2014). "The Butter Wars: When Margarine Was Pink". www.nationalgeographic.com. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  4. "Our history". Unilever global company website. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  5. Coxall, Malcolm (20 February 2014). Ethical Eating: A Complete Guide to Sustainable Food. Cornelio Books. p. 58. ISBN 978-84-941783-1-3.
  6. Roumeliotis, Greg (15 December 2017). "Unilever to sell spreads business to KKR for $8 billion". U.S. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  7. Devlin, Edward (15 December 2017). "KKR snaps up Unilever spreads division for £6bn". TheGrocer.co.uk. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  8. Treanor, Jill (15 December 2017). "Unilever sells household name spreads to KKR for £6bn". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  9. "Our Brands". www.upfield.com. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  10. "Imperial Brands director David Haines leaves for Upfield gig, 4 Jul 2018 13:10 | Shares Magazine". www.sharesmagazine.co.uk. 10 July 2018. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  11. "Upfield". www.upfield.com. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
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