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.
Following its success as the first offering in plant-based seafood, Nestlé introduced Vrimp, yep vegan shrimp, an incredible innovation made from combining seaweed, peas and konjac root.
In tandem, Garden Gourmet vEGGie also launched, to provide people a nutritious, tasty alternative to conventional eggs that is both sustainable and animal-friendly. Its versatility impressively meets a wide range of cooking from scrambling like real eggs to cooking in a frittata to baking as an ingredient in cakes or cookies.
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."