National Post (Latest Edition)

Nestle tests plant-based frontier

Vegan eggs, shrimp to be tried in Europe

- Corinne Gretler thomas Buckley and

Nestle SA is introducin­g plant-based alternativ­es for eggs and shrimp as the world’s largest food company attempts to beat rivals in expanding further in protein substitute­s.

The vegan versions of egg and shrimp can be used in cooking and meals just like the original products, the Swiss food giant said Wednesday. They will be introduced in a limited number of stores in a few European markets under the Garden Gourmet brand.

The egg substitute, which is in liquid form, contains soy protein and omega-3 fatty acids, while the fauxshrimp is made of seaweed, peas and a plant called konjac found in Asia.

Nestle, the maker of Nespresso coffee and Digiorno pizza, has been doubling down on its efforts to expand its plant-based offering after initially lagging rivals in joining the vegan trend. While upstart companies like Beyond Meat Inc. made meat substitute­s mainstream, Nestle is counting on its vast distributi­on network to bring its products to consumers via supermarke­ts around the world. Chief executive Mark Schneider said Nestle’s ambition is to have a plant-based protein to “replace every animal protein out there”.

“We are onto something that’s a major trend over time,” rather than a quarter-or yearlong fad, Schneider said at an event in London. The maker of Kitkat chocolate is also seeking to diversify its portfolio as it faces criticism over unhealthy products. The big food industry, led by multinatio­nals like Nestle and Pepsico Inc., has come under increasing pressure from consumers and government­s in recent years to make healthier products amid rising obesity and diabetes rates. Global obesity has almost tripled since 1975, according to the World Health Organizati­on.

Nestle has already jettisoned its U.S. confection­ery unit and put its ice cream business there into a joint venture. It also sold its Yinlu peanut milk and rice porridge businesses in China and 60 per cent of the European meat-processing brand Herta.

The company’s total sales of plant-based food products amounted to about 700 million francs (US$753 million) last year, while dairy substitute­s generated about 100 million francs. The current portfolio includes alternativ­es to meat, seafood and dairy products including ice cream and vegan confection­ery.

Earlier this year, Nestle moved into cow milk alternativ­es with its Wunda brand, a challenger to Oatly AB and Danone’s Alpro.

Nestle is also testing the waters for new technologi­es, like for cultured meat with Israeli cell-based startup Future Meat Technologi­es Ltd.

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