The race to meet rising demand for vegetarian meals is heating up as Nestle unveiled plans to introduce its soy-protein-based burgers across Europe and the US this year.
Nestlé’s meatless Incredible Burger will go on sale in supermarkets in Europe under the Garden Gourmet brand this month, starting out in countries including Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden. Near the end of the year, a version designed for American palates called the Awesome Burger will be available where Sweet Earth brand products are sold, the world’s largest food company said.
As consumers reduce their meat intake, food companies are rushing in with alternatives. Nestlé’s announcement comes the day after Burger King said it will start a test run of meatless burgers in the US using burgers from Impossible Foods in St Louis.
“It’s a big trend,” said Alain Oberhuber, an analyst at MainFirst in Zurich who has tasted Nestlé’s meat substitute product.
I liked it a lot. Even without sauce, you didn’t really taste a big difference.
Meatless also sells well to millennials, because it creates fewer greenhouse emissions than raising beef, Mr Oberhuber said. The product may also have a higher gross margin, and because it’s hard to replicate meat, the new market segment is hard for new entrants to conquer.
Nestlé’s product includes wheat and extracts of beetroot, carrot and bell peppers to help make it look like meat. The company is launching it in the chilled and frozen aisles of supermarkets across Europe, while Burger King’s test run is currently confined to 59 fast-food restaurants near St Louis.
The field is growing, with new entrants like Beyond Meat, backed by Bill Gates, competing with The Vegetarian Butcher, recently acquired by Unilever.
Beyond Meat already is widely available in retail in the US, and an eight ounce burger at Amazon’s Whole Foods can cost $5.99 (€5.33).
Beyond Meat also sells meatless substitutes for sausages and chicken strips.
Nestlé’s Sweet Earth business, which it acquired in 2017, already sells various flavours of meatless burgers in supermarkets as well as bacon substitutes and veggie sausages.
Impossible Foods aims to break into the retail market as well, but first needs approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for the key ingredient in its burgers. Awesome Burger burgers don’t use the substance, a molecule called heme. Impossible Food meat substitutes are available in more than 5,000 restaurants in the US.