Nestle moves into plant-based foods segment with Sweet Earth acquisition

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08 Sep 2017 --- Nestlé may be better known for its large confectionery portfolio – but it is turning toward vegetarian food with the acquisition of California-based Sweet Earth in a bid to align itself with modern food trends. Nestlé USA has agreed to acquire the plant-based food manufacturer, marking its immediate entry into this rising food segment. The plant-based food market is growing by double-digits and expected to reach CHF5 billion (US$5.2 billion) worldwide by 2020, according to Nestlé. 

This is the second deal of the week – Unilever also just acquired organic herb tea business, Pukka Herbs Ltd – where huge multinationals have snapped up small, artisanal businesses that represent a different steer. Both acquisitions demonstrate how large food firms are looking to give sales a boost through different products that tap into healthy, well-being and ethical trends. 

One of Nestlé’s strategic priorities is to build out its portfolio of vegetarian and flexitarian choices, in line with modern health trends.

“In the United States, we’re experiencing a consumer shift toward plant-based proteins. In fact, as many as 50 percent of consumers are now seeking more plant-based foods in their diet and 40 percent are open to reducing their traditional meat consumption,” says Paul Grimwood, Nestlé USA Chairman and CEO. 

“One of Nestlé’s strategic priorities is to build out our portfolio of vegetarian and flexitarian choices in line with modern health trends. With unique and nutritious food for all times of the day, Sweet Earth gives Nestlé a leading position in this emerging space.”

Sweet Earth’s on-trend products feature global flavors and plant-based proteins like seitan (wheat-based), tofu and legumes like lentils, chickpeas and beans. They span three core platforms: entrees, breakfast and plant-based proteins, called Righteous Meats.

“Our products meet the demands of flavor-forward consumers who want more plant-based foods, especially millennials who want convenient, real food and flexitarians who are looking to include more vegetables and plant-based proteins in their diet,” says Kelly Swette, Sweet Earth CEO. “Nestlé’s acquisition validates what forward-thinking consumers and retailers have been demanding for a while – more wholesome and sustainable choices.”

Sweet Earth will continue to be led by Kelly and Brian Swette; the business will remain independent with support from Nestlé USA’s Food Division.

The Sweet Earth acquisition follows Nestlé’s recent equity stake in Freshly, a direct-to-consumer delivery service, and continues the company’s evolution into new products and categories to match changing consumer preferences.

FoodIngredientsFirst reported how Nestlé is entering the online prepared meals market with the Freshly deal in June. 

Nestlé already offers a range of vegetarian protein-based products in some European markets with its Garden Gourmet range.

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