Nestlé launched its Sweet Earth brand plant-based Awesome Burger in the U.S. earlier this year

By Janet Forgrieve

The market for beef-like plant-based burgers is growing increasingly competitive as brands recognize the burgeoning consumer demand for new versions of their favorite foods.

 

Brands are in a race to win over flexitarians who increasingly see plant-based foods as better alternatives to animal products at least some of the time, whether out of humane, environmental or health concerns. And quite often, these consumers only want to make those changes if they can do so without sacrificing the taste and texture they expect from their favorite indulgent foods.

 

Nestlé aims to feed that craving by building on its recent plant-based burger launches with the roll out early next year of vegan cheese and bacon options that will give eateries a way to offer plant-based bacon cheeseburgers that won’t make customers feel like they’re missing out.

 

The PB Triple Play will actually be three products sold separately that eateries can combine and personalize to create their own signature plant-based bacon cheeseburgers, says Fleur Veldhoven, vice president of food marketing at Nestlé Professional.

 

Nestlé launched its Sweet Earth brand plant-based Awesome Burger in the U.S. earlier this year, and it sells a plant-based burger under the Garden Gourmet Incredible Burger brand in Europe.

 

The cheddar-style cheese alternative was designed with the texture, taste and meltiness of dairy cheddar, Veldhoven said, and the bacon, made with soy, pea and wheat protein, mimics the crispiness and chewiness of animal-based bacon.

 

While still indulgent, the PB Triple Play will be lower in fat and higher in fiber than the meat-based original, and it will have no cholesterol, Veldhoven said.

 

The new vegan cheese and bacon products, created by chefs and food scientists, are set to roll out early next year in foodservice channels. They could also ultimately be sold in retail channels as well, but Nestlé hasn’t announced plans for that yet.

 

It makes sense that foodservice channels will be first with this new launch.

 

Shipments of plant-based protein products to US restaurants and foodservice channels grew 20% last year, according to NPD Group, and a growing roster of high-profile restaurant chains have built buzz with their launches of plant-based burgers and other vegan meat alternatives.

 

And consumers are taking notice.

 

According to research done for Nestlé by Datassential, consumers say having a plant-based burger on the menu raises the overall perception of the eatery. Forty-four percent of respondents said it makes a restaurant seem healthier, 33% and 31% said it makes the place feel trendier and more progressive, respectively.

 

“As we see that plant-based burger segment growing across foodservice, this will help our operators generate buzz and drive repeat customers into restaurants,” she said.

 

Additionally, the products are part of a larger sustainability effort on the company’s part. Plant-based food and beverage innovation is a key part of Nestlé’s goal to reach zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

 

“A number of consumers are cutting out meat for a number of reasons, but not because they dislike the taste,” Veldhoven said. “This plant-based meat alternative offering allows for an easy way to make that switch, and we see this trend as being here to stay.”