Nestlé targets shoppers who haven’t tried plant-based meat with launch of Stouffer’s, Digiorno meals

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Nestle
Source: Nestle

Related tags plant-based Nestlé Processing and packaging Innovation

While meatless meals have gained significant traction in the US in recent years, a survey commissioned by Nestlé found more than half of Americans have not yet tried plant-based alternatives to animal protein – a startling statistic that the company wants to change with the upcoming launch of two mainstream favorites from highly-trusted brands made with a plant-based alternative to ground beef.

In the spring, Nestlé will launch on Amazon Fresh a Digiorno Rising Crust Meatless Supreme and Stouffer’s Meatless Lasagna – both made with Sweet Earth Awesome Grounds, which mimic ground beef but are made from texturized pea protein, coconut oil, methylcellulous, and other flavorings.

But consumers eager to try the new offerings – and potentially a plant-based meat for the first time – won’t necessarily have to wait until spring to do so because for one day only on Dec. 5 Nestlé is giving away 100 Stouffer’s Meatless Lasagnas and 100 Digiorno Rising Crust Meatless Supreme pizzas to consumers who visit​ for a chance to win.

“I am really excited for this promotion, which will give consumers interested in a sneak peek of these two products a chance to win one of 100 of each of these two products, which we will ship to them,”​ Ryan Riddle, R&D specialist with Nestlé USA’s Vegetarian Meal Solutions, told FoodNavigator-USA.

He added that Nestlé is “hoping to generate some social media excitement but also to get feedback from [the winners] about how we can make these even better, what other products they would like to see the Sweet Earth Awesome Grounds in and then that will help us gear up for the full launch in the spring with Amazon Fresh.”

An untapped market

The inspiration for the promo followed the discovery by a survey commissioned by Nestlé that revealed only about half of Americans currently eat plant-based meat or are open to it – leaving a significant portion of the population that still needs swaying.

“I think there are many people who haven’t tried plant-based meat alternatives because they don’t think there are good options available,”​ Riddle said. “I think you are seeing more and more plant-based meat options available, but there are still not that many great options available for consumers who want the taste of meat, or they want the full experience of eating meat, but they want it in an option that is completely plant-based or something that is better for their health, or something that is better for the environment”​ or another reason.

“So, part of it is raising the awareness that, ‘Hey, there are these really good plant-based alternative options out there that you can use if you are having a barbecue.’ Now, we have the Sweet Earth Awesome Burger … and Awesome Grounds,”​ both of which are “cooked from raw”​ and are designed to swap one-for-one with animal protein, Riddle said.

Appealing to a broader consumer base

But for the consumer who doesn’t want to cook from scratch, they can now try plant-based meat in the form of Awesome Grounds in a product they love and from a brand they trust, he said.

“Digiorno Rising Crust Pizza and Stouffer’s lasagna are two of America’s favorite brands and two of our best selling products – so this is a great opportunity to raise awareness, help gauge the interests of our consumers so we can get more feedback from them about what other products they’d like to see in the meatless form and how much we should produce to meet the demand when we launch this full out in the Spring,”​ Riddle said.

The new products also likely will appeal to a broader consumer base that tends to shop the conventional and convenience channels compared to than those who favor the natural channel and likely already are familiar with Sweet Earth’s products and the Awesome Burger and Grounds.

“So, this launch is bringing plant-based meat alternatives to the flexitarian consumer in the places where they shop and the places where they look,”​ he said. “That is what is going to help us bring meatless options beyond the natural, organic, vegan categories and into lots of other different categories that are visited by completely different sets of people.”

When assessing the opportunity and white space in the emerging plant-based space, Riddle says Nestlé first considers who the end consumer will be and which of two main camps are they most likely to fall into.

He explained that when it comes to plant-based products consumers tend to gravitate towards products that are either plant-forward or those that more closely mimic animal products. And while there is room for development in both sectors, Riddle notes the fastest growth is coming not from vegans and vegetarians who already love plants, but flexitarians looking for products that they can snap in for meat-based alternatives.

A broad portfolio of meatless options on the way

While Nestlé tests the water with Sweet Earth’s Awesome Burger and Grounds which launched in the last six months and these two upcoming frozen meals featuring the protein, it is also developing a broad portfolio of other plant-based alternatives to meat.

“We are excited about our upcoming portfolio of meatless deli meats, which will include a turkey, a ham and a pepperoni that are really delicious so you can make the ultimate breakfast or launch sandwich with complete plant-based meats,”​ Riddle said.

“We also have got sausage, jerky and hot dogs coming out under the Sweet Earth brand, in addition to our existing amazing plant-based pizzas, bowls, and burritos,”​ he said, adding, “The plant-based category is really taking off and we have got so many great offerings in that category today.”

The new products should begin appearing on store shelves in the spring or summer of 2020.

Related topics Brands & manufacturers Meat

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