Hold the ground chuck: Nestle SA sees the future in a meat-free burger made from soy and wheat protein. Soon you may be able to wash it down with purple walnut milk or a spirulina latte.
The Swiss company is gearing up for its biggest push yet into the booming vegan market: the Incredible Burger, to be introduced under the Garden Gourmet label next spring. As consumers swap meat for leafy greens, Nestle wants to turn the trend in plant-based eating into a billion-dollar business.
It’s a big shift for the world’s largest food company, whose products include Herta sausages and ham. While Nestle and its competitors have been dabbling in vegan fare for years, growth has become more essential amid stagnant sales of mainstream supermarket brands. Many of whose products contain dairy and meat, which vegans don’t consume.
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Nestle is racing against rivals Unilever and new entrants like Beyond Meat, backed by Bill Gates and Leonardo DiCaprio, to find alternatives that resonate with a new generation of consumers turned off by animal protein and high cholesterol content. The Anglo-Dutch company in December snapped up Dutch plant-based food maker The Vegetarian Butcher, while the U.S. startup sells a burger that includes beetroot juice to simulate the myoglobin in beef.
The Swiss company’s plant-based business may reach more than 1 billion francs ($1 billion) in sales within a decade, according to Laurent Freixe, chief executive officer of the Americas region. That’s up from just a few hundred million francs now, with the bulk of Nestle’s 90 billion francs in sales still coming from coffee, bottled water and other long-standing businesses. The company says about half of its protein used, including in pet food, comes from plant rather than animal sources.