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Vegan industry betting with hamburgers without meat and walnut milk

Nestlé SA sees the future in meatless burgers made from soybeans and wheat proteins. Soon we can accompany him with purple walnut milk or spirulina latte.

Swiss companies are preparing for the biggest robbery so far in the developing vegan market: Incredible Burger, which will be launched under the Garden Gourmet brand next spring. While consumers leave meat for green leafy vegetables, Nestlé wants to turn the trend into plant foods into a multibillion-dollar business.

This is a big change for the largest food company in the world, whose products include sausages and ham Herta. While Nestlé and its competitors have penetrated vegan food for years, expansion has become more fundamental in the context of stagnating sales of traditional supermarket brands, many of which contain dairy and meat products, products that Vegan does not consume.

Nestlé competes with rivals such as Unilever and newcomers like Beyond Meat, funded by Bill Gates and Leonardo DiCaprio, to find alternatives that identify a new generation of consumers who reject animal protein and high cholesterol levels. The British-Dutch company in December bought vegetable-based food maker The Vegetarian Butcher, while US startups sold hamburgers containing beet juice to simulate beef myoglobin.

Vegetable-based businesses from Swiss companies can reach sales of more than 1 billion francs (US $ 1 billion) in a decade, according to Laurent Freixe, head of the American region. That represents an increase of hundreds of millions of francs today, while most of the 90 billion francs in Nestlé's sales still come from coffee, bottled water and other old businesses. The company says that about half of the protein it uses, including pet food, comes from plants and not from animal sources.

& # 39; Food Tribe & # 39;

Nestlé's chief technology officer, Stefan Palzer, identifies consumers who choose the plant-based diet as one of the few fast-growing "food tribes", besides those who follow a gluten-free or lactose-free diet. The popularity of veganism among the millennial generation makes it very attractive to food giants.

"While we investigate consumption trends more deeply, we see that they have changed little in recent years depending on how consumers determine what a healthy diet is," he said in an interview.

Large food companies have strengthened their vegan presence through acquisitions in the past two years. Nestlé buys Sweet Earth and California snack maker Terrafertil, while Danone is evaluating the addition of milk-free products to several of its flagship brands, such as Activia and Actimel, after acquiring WhiteWave for $ 10 billion.

At Nestlé's research and development center in Lausanne, Switzerland, scientists study the potential of other vegan proteins. While most non-milk milk available to consumers is currently based on soybeans, for example, the company is experimenting with liquids derived from walnuts and blueberries, which have a purple hue. There is also a latte with spirulina algae.

"Vegetarianism has never been as popular as this and remains here, I am sure of that," Palzer said.

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