At Nestlé, we leverage our industry-leading R&D organization to develop food, beverage and nutritional health products for people and pets that are good for them and the planet. Purpose-driven innovation underpins everything we do.
We drive innovation through our passionate R&D employees, strong expertise in science and technology, increased speed and efficiency, and our entrepreneurial and collaborative culture. Our understanding of consumer needs helps us deliver trend-based innovations and breakthrough nutritional concepts. Our innovation efforts include the following:
- Developing breakthrough nutritional solutions
- Making good nutrition affordable and accessible
- Advancing sustainable food production
- Meeting demand for plant-based products
- Enhancing our innovation capabilities
Developing breakthrough nutritional solutions
Our work to develop science-based concepts from preconception through to healthy aging continues. Together with the EpiGen Global Research Consortium, our scientists developed and tested a nutritional supplement for pregnant women that led to a significantly decreased incidence of preterm birth.
New research has linked a specific blend of myo-inositol, probiotics and micronutrients to the decreased incidence of preterm birth when consumed before and during pregnancy.
Our research also explores innovations for infant nutrition. Leveraging strong clinical evidence, we introduced an infant formula made with a combination of five human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs). HMOs are naturally present in breastmilk and play an important role in an infant's healthy development, immunity and gut health. Our microbiome research continues to drive new products that support healthy digestion, immunity and general well-being. For example, our Gerber Powerblend cereal supports infant digestive health.
We are also creating specific nutritional solutions for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other medical conditions. Nutren GlucoSmart, launched in Malaysia, contains proprietary mulberry leaf extract to support healthy glucose levels. We are working on solutions for pets, too. Pro Plan CardioCare was launched in 2021 within the Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets range to slow the progression of heart disease in dogs.
Making good nutrition affordable and accessible
To make good nutrition affordable and accessible, we leverage our global presence and local innovation capabilities. We adjust processes and recipes, use local raw materials and fortify products with locally relevant micronutrients. Adapting solutions requires local expertise, consumer insights and entrepreneurship, so we partner with universities and start-ups.
The 2021 rollout of affordable nutrition products included Lactogen affordable milk powders and a new nutritious sorghum-based porridge under the Golden Morn brand in Central and West Africa. We also developed affordable great-tasting coffee mixes, such as Nescafé Creamy White in the Philippines and Nescafé Malty 3-in-1 in Nigeria.
Advancing sustainable food production
Science and technology play a role in making food production more sustainable across our value chain. We are assessing solutions to reduce emissions in dairy farming to develop climate-friendly milk. Using traditional, non-GMO breeding, we are developing higher-yielding coffee and cocoa varieties with a lower climate impact. Together with partners such as ETH Zurich, we are focused on reducing the carbon footprint of agricultural raw materials, and identifying nutritious crops for plant-based meat, dairy and seafood alternatives.
By upcycling agricultural side streams, we can avoid food waste and nutrient loss, and unlock new revenues for farmers. 2021 launches included 100% cocoa fruit Les Recettes de l'Atelier Incoa that uses cocoa pulp - a byproduct of cocoa growing - as a natural sweetener and Nescafé 2X Caffeine that makes use of the caffeine lost in the decaffeination process.
Our innovations in packaging also play a role in improving sustainability. In 2021, we introduced paper-based packaging for several brands, paper cups and straws, and bio-based lids and scoops. We also reduced the use of virgin plastics and unveiled prototype 100% rPET Perrier bottles made using a novel recycling technology.
Meeting demand for plant-based products
To develop great-tasting, nutritious and sustainable plant-based products we leverage protein science, nutrition expertise and proprietary technologies. Our plant scientists work with farmers to breed and select nutritious, tasty pulse varieties best suited for plant-based alternatives. To make plant-based alternatives more available in geographies with a limited supply chain, we are developing shelf-stable products that do not need to be chilled or frozen.
R&D chefs use their culinary expertise to bring innovations into kitchens worldwide and adapt them to local consumer preferences and recipes.
We are pioneering seafood alternatives that can help reduce overfishing and protect ocean biodiversity with the continued rollout of Garden Gourmet Vuna and the launch of Garden Gourmet Vrimp, our shrimp alternative. Garden Gourmet vEGGie, our first egg alternative, offers consumers a nutritious, tasty plant-based option.
Our launches of plant-based alternatives to dairy continued in 2021. Pea-based Wunda is a nutritious alternative to milk that can be used in everything. Plant-based dairy products were also introduced across product categories, including coffee creamers, ice cream, malt beverages and chocolate.
Enhancing our innovation capabilities
Our unmatched expertise in nutrition science and technology enables us to deliver innovations quickly and scale them up across brands, categories and geographies. To increase speed-to-market, we produce the first commercial batches for shop tests in our R&D facilities. In 2021, we expanded our R&D facility in Singapore, which develops products and technologies for South East Asia and beyond, supporting brands such as Maggi, Nescafé, Milo and Harvest Gourmet.
In 2021, we continued to deliver fast innovation by leveraging our vast expertise and global innovation capabilities. We have maintained the same innovation speed since 2019 despite challenges due to the pandemic. Highlights include the following:
- 12% increase in global/multi-market launches and test launches.
- 50 fast-track projects funded, leading to shop tests and launches.
Fostering entrepreneurship and investing in bottom-up initiatives is key for us. Employees can apply for funding via our internal 'Shark Tank', leading to the launch of products such as Garden Gourmet Vuna, Gerber Soothe 'n' Chew teething sticks and Les Recettes de l'Atelier Incoa.
Bringing innovations to life
Our global R+D Accelerator program provides start-ups, students and Nestlé scientists with key resources to explore new ideas through a six-month test-and-learn approach. By tapping into our expertise in food science, safety, regulatory affairs and packaging, they can rapidly upscale and test new products in real market conditions.
Today, our global R+D Accelerator network consists of 12 sites in 8 different countries. Each Accelerator is located at a Nestlé R&D site and focuses on a specific product category or region. For example, we have Accelerators at our R&D centers for dairy, nutrition, coffee, confectionery and food products. Our regional Accelerators in ASEAN, China, India, sub-Saharan Africa and the United States work with local start-ups and students to develop innovations relevant to their regions.
Our recently inaugurated site embedded at Nestlé's research facilities in Lausanne accelerates the translation of fundamental science into cross-category innovations. It is the industry's largest Accelerator with a variety of coworking stations, prototyping kitchens and mini-production facilities.
Since 2019, more than 250 participants have benefitted from the R+D Accelerator program and 90 products have been tested in 20 countries. Recent launches include the milk alternative Wunda and bioactive beverage X-tract that supports muscular energy, as well as a smoothie range for immunity protection and energy.
Wunda, our nutritious pea-based milk alternative developed by Nestlé 'intrapreneurs' in six months, has a neutral taste and real versatility - plus, it is carbon neutral.
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