When was the last time you ate meat? Last night, last week – even last month?
For many people, a meal without meat isn't a meal at all, but a growing number of us are choosing to enjoy it less often, as part of a 'flexitarian' diet that is both healthier and better for the planet.
The diet is no fad. 'Flexitarian' is fast becoming as valid a lifestyle choice as vegetarian or meat-eater. A global study we conducted in 2017 revealed that up to 30% of consumers are keen to transition to a diet with less or no meat. More and more of us are embracing the challenge and variety involved in making plant-based meals on a regular basis, without feeling the pressure to commit to never eating meat again.
As demand rises - sales of plant-based foods in the US have grown 29% in the past two years, according to The Good Food Institute - so too does the quality of prepared plant-based foods. Today's meatless meals can be tasty and filled with complex, savory flavors – no longer banished to the darker recesses of your local grocery store.
At Nestlé we're meeting this trend with delicious plant-based foods that deliver on taste, nutrition and value – through brands like Garden Gourmet in Europe and Sweet Earth in the US, and across our portfolio.
Injecting flavor and nutrition into plant-based in Europe
As Europe's second-largest vegetarian brand, Garden Gourmet is growing fast across 15 countries, satisfying vegetarians, vegans, and flexitarians alike.
Gone are the days when a craving for that timeless classic - a bacon cheeseburger - meant abandoning your plant-based goals. Last year, Nestlé became the first food and beverage company to develop all three key elements - vegan bacon, cheese and burgers (dubbed the 'PB triple play') - to achieve a no-compromise, completely convincing, vegan option.
And the quest for genuine plant-based alternatives to foodie favorites is an ongoing one, our food experts are avidly tweaking and experimenting to bring ever-improved iterations, just as you would a new model of car or mobile phone. In September 2020 Garden Gourmet launched a second re-working of our plant-based burger, first launched in April 2019. It features the meatiest plant-based flavor yet and a truly juicy texture. Not only that, it has a lower environmental impact than a conventional beef burger – requiring 80% less land use and generating 75% less carbon emissions. We don't call it Sensational Burger for nothing.
No self-respecting plant-based food expert would tackle authentic burgers without sparing a thought for the great sausage. Since spring 2020 Europeans have been able to enjoy Garden Gourmet Sensational Sausage, available in Bratwurst and Chorizo styles and made using a range of carefully chosen ingredients including soy, beetroot, carrots, peppers, rapeseed and coconut oils.
Aspiring flexitarians now have a bona fide cheeseburger and sausage sandwich experience, so what next? A tuna melt, of course. Our plant-based tuna alternative is now available in supermarkets in Switzerland. The vegan tuna alternative is Nestlé's first offering in plant-based seafood; contains just six natural ingredients; and delivers on texture, flavor and appearance.
This type of out-of-the box thinking subsequently inspired our hero milk alternative: Wunda. The pea-based beverage offers a neutral flavor that lends itself to being drunk straight, poured over cereal, cooked with, or used in hot drinks. And like any superhero, it's not just on the shelf to shine, it’s here to save the planet: Wunda is carbon neutral.
These crowd-pleasing favorites have all been achieved with nutrition as high a priority as deliciousness. 80% of Garden Gourmet products are now clean label, with plans to extend to the entire range.
Since 2017, with the plant-based foods company Sweet Earth Foods, we have been meeting similar demand in the US for delicious clean-label, meat-free foods. Award-winning frozen meals, burritos, breakfast sandwiches and plant-based burgers are now available in an ever-increasing number of grocery stores across the country.
"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 want more vegetables and plant-based proteins in their diet," Sweet Earth Foods co-founder, Kelly Swette explains.
Nestlé's expertise made it possible for Sweet Earth to accelerate the launch of an innovative range of plant-based pizzas to meet the ever-increasing cravings of a nation with changing food habits. Crusts pack in extra vegetables and fiber, while toppings deliver on taste.
Under the Sweet Earth brand, we also launched the plant-based Awesome Burger and Awesome Grounds. And our most recent addition to the hit list are Sweet Earth Sausages - plump, juicy and available in Green Chile Chedd'r or Chik'n Apple.
The journey continues, with more established brands going plant-based
Other established Nestlé brands are also innovating to cater for people seeking plant-based.
Starting with coffee lovers: in 2019 Nescafé Gold launched a range of non-dairy lattes made with almond, oat or coconut, and blended with 100% Arabica coffee beans to create smooth and creamy coffees. In the US, Coffee-Mate Natural Bliss recently introduced plant-based creamers, so that you can add a splash of flavored almond milk to your beverage. And, for those craving the comforting flavors of their favorite coffee shop at home, there are the Starbucks Non-Dairy Creamers: crafted from a blend of almond and oat milk and available in caramel and hazelnut.
If you are keen to focus on health and fitness: Lean Cuisine now offers plant-based options like Sicilian-Style Pesto with Lentil Pasta; while Nestlé Brazil sells 100% plant-based smoothies from Nesfit and the pea-based Ninho Forti+ in a ready-to-drink carton.
Much-loved old-school Nestlé icons from across the globe remain firm favorites with plant-based alternatives for 2020. After school chocolate-flavored treats like Milo in Australia and Nesquik in Europe are now available as plant-based and lactose-free. Plus, vegan bakers in the UK are delighted to discover that their beloved Carnation condensed milk is now available made from a blend of oat and rice flour.
Even KitKat has turned over a green leaf. Plant-based fans around the world enthusiastically cried out for a break following the introduction of KitKat V, the certified vegan take on the iconic crispy wafer and smooth chocolate bar.
By working with established plant-based brands like Sweet Earth and using our expertise to help with a speedy and successful scale up, Nestlé is ready for the flexitarian future. In Kelly Swette's words: "We're making healthy and sustainable food accessible to everyone, just like it should be."