Nestlé has no plans to scale back its presence in the plant-based space, executives told FoodDive, as many consumers are still interested in having choices when eating and drinking.
Mel Cash Nestle Chief Marketing and innovation officer, Despite the recent economic slowdown, shopper interest in plant-based products is strong enough that the world’s largest food maker should include its most famous brands in the category, he said.
Plant-based food and beverages represent only a small portion of Nestlé’s $104 billion in global sales last year, but they remain an important growth area for the company.
“Even when we start talking about ‘Are plant-based ingredients going to waste?’ there is still a lot of awareness and a lot of desire, and listening to consumers, I think that’s where they want to go. I keep telling them,” Cash said. “We have to be there.”
Nestle made a big foray into plant-based food with its 2017 acquisition of Sweet Earth. Since then, the brand has expanded into new categories such as plant-based chicken, beef and deli meats.
Over the past few years, the food and beverage giant has also developed plant-based extensions for Coffee Mate, Natural Bliss, Starbucks creamers and Toll House chocolate chips. It also added plant-based meat options to its DiGiorno pizza and Stouffer’s Lasagna.
Cash said Nestlé’s portfolio of large, well-known brands is advantageous in attracting and retaining consumers for plant-based alternatives. People who have previously consumed Nestlé’s animal-based products and liked them are more likely to try plant-based products, even if they have previously had negative experiences with outside plant-based brands. maybe.
“It’s reliable. You might have tried something else inside.” [Nestlé] I have created a portfolio before and found it very good. So I’m confident that first attempts in new areas like plant-based will do well,” Cash said. “There is enough interest from consumers that it is the right opportunity for us.”
Nestlé is actively working to raise consumer awareness of plant-based products.
The food and beverage giant plans to continue offering new flavor extensions to products that already have a plant-based presence, such as Tollhouse mosel and coffee creamer.
The company is increasing distribution of Sweet Earth burgers and chicken to food service outlets as a way to get consumers to try its products. hope they decide I will buy it later at the grocery store. And Nestlé is using the Innovation Accelerator to develop new brands on a smaller scale and, if successful, may consider expanding more broadly.
Once the fastest-growing food category, the plant-based industry has seen slowing or declining growth, especially in meat. This has led to several large companies reducing their presence. In 2022, JBS USA abruptly closed Plantera’s plant-based operations, while Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods and Green Leaf Foods, a subsidiary of Maple Leaf Foods, all laid off staff.
Despite the fact that some of our competitors are reducing their plant-based footprints, Cash said there’s enough consumer awareness and trials that it will continue to take root in consumer diets. said he would. “We don’t think it’s going away, which is why we’re still sticking to plant-based options,” she said.
Nestlé North America CEO Steve Presley told Food Dive last September that the plant-based trend was “still a very strong consumer trend,” but “has become a little bit of a frenzy.” said. At the time, he downplayed the “massive transition to vegetarians and vegans,” instead predicting that most consumers would go meat-free for a day or two a week.