Nestlé Courts Flexitarians With New DiGiorno, Stouffer’s Plant-Based Products

Nestlé is finding new ways to work plant-based meat into familiar brands.

Stouffers Meatless Lasagna is made with Sweet Earth's Awesome Grounds.

Nestlé

Nestlé’s acquisition of plant-based food brand Sweet Earth two years ago is giving the big food company new options for appealing to flexitarians across its brand portfolio.

Tomorrow, the company will give fans of its Stouffer’s lasagna and DiGiornio pizza a chance to be the first to taste new versions made with plant-based Awesome Grounds ground beef alternative from Sweet Earth.

The new DiGiorno Rising Crust Meatless Supreme and Stouffer’s Meatless Lasagna will officially launch in the spring on Amazon Fresh, and the company is also in talks with other retail partners for a bigger roll out, John Carmichael, president of the foods division at Nestlé, said.

But on Dec. 5, for one day, fans of the brands can register on TryItMeatless.com to qualify for a giveaway of the products.

“We’re excited to give consumers early access to this before it hits the market,” Carmichael said. “We’ve found in this particular space that a lot of consumers are thought leaders who are ahead of the curve.”

The new products will be comparable with the meaty originals on both nutrition and price, he said.

They’ll be made with dairy cheese, so they won’t be vegan, but they will be meatless. Vegan versions could debut in the future, he said, but the target customer for these first new products is the consumer looking to take more meat out of their diets.

About 98% of households that purchase plant-based meat alternatives also buy meat and other animal products, and only 5% call themselves vegan or vegetarian, according to Nielsen data released earlier this year. The number of consumers who are trying plant-based meat alternatives is on the rise, though, and it’s expected to continue growing as more options become more convenient and attractive.

“We’re seeing a pretty big shift in the consumer environment,” Carmichael said.

Plant-based options under familiar brands could be key to helping more consumers adopt flexitarian eating styles, he said.

Sweet Earth’s product line is all vegetarian or vegan, and at Nestlé the brand has become a launchpad for development of new products, some of which will ultimately rolled out to other portfolio brands.

In addition to Stouffer’s and DiGiorno, Carmichael’s division includes frozen food brands like Lean Cuisine, Hot Pockets and several other pizza brands.

“Right now, we’re focused on the two biggest brands and the two biggest products within those brands,” he said. “It makes sense to start there and as other opportunities come up, we would absolutely look at including it in more of our lines.”

That strategy is in line with recent comments by Nestlé CEO Mark Schneider. Last month, Schneider talked publicly about his vision for reducing U.S. meat consumption and replacing more animal meat with plant-based alternatives for health and environmental reasons.

Increasingly, creating options that help consumers eat less meat also makes commercial sense, Carmichael said.

“As we see consumers’ needs change, more so now than any time in history, we want to make sure we have a variety of offers that keep pace and/or lead where consumers are going,” he said. “We believe in the plant-based movement as an enduring consumer trend and we want to be there as more consumers see it as a way to eat.”

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Nestlé’s acquisition of plant-based food brand Sweet Earth two years ago is giving the big food company new options for appealing to flexitarians across its brand portfolio.

Tomorrow, the company will give fans of its Stouffer’s lasagna and DiGiornio pizza a chance to be the first to taste new versions made with plant-based Awesome Grounds ground beef alternative from Sweet Earth.

The new DiGiorno Rising Crust Meatless Supreme and Stouffer’s Meatless Lasagna will officially launch in the spring on Amazon Fresh, and the company is also in talks with other retail partners for a bigger roll out, John Carmichael, president of the foods division at Nestlé, said.

But on Dec. 5, for one day, fans of the brands can register on TryItMeatless.com to qualify for a giveaway of the products.

“We’re excited to give consumers early access to this before it hits the market,” Carmichael said. “We’ve found in this particular space that a lot of consumers are thought leaders who are ahead of the curve.”

The new products will be comparable with the meaty originals on both nutrition and price, he said.

They’ll be made with dairy cheese, so they won’t be vegan, but they will be meatless. Vegan versions could debut in the future, he said, but the target customer for these first new products is the consumer looking to take more meat out of their diets.

About 98% of households that purchase plant-based meat alternatives also buy meat and other animal products, and only 5% call themselves vegan or vegetarian, according to Nielsen data released earlier this year. The number of consumers who are trying plant-based meat alternatives is on the rise, though, and it’s expected to continue growing as more options become more convenient and attractive.

“We’re seeing a pretty big shift in the consumer environment,” Carmichael said.

Plant-based options under familiar brands could be key to helping more consumers adopt flexitarian eating styles, he said.

Sweet Earth’s product line is all vegetarian or vegan, and at Nestlé the brand has become a launchpad for development of new products, some of which will ultimately rolled out to other portfolio brands.

In addition to Stouffer’s and DiGiorno, Carmichael’s division includes frozen food brands like Lean Cuisine, Hot Pockets and several other pizza brands.

“Right now, we’re focused on the two biggest brands and the two biggest products within those brands,” he said. “It makes sense to start there and as other opportunities come up, we would absolutely look at including it in more of our lines.”

That strategy is in line with recent comments by Nestlé CEO Mark Schneider. Last month, Schneider talked publicly about his vision for reducing U.S. meat consumption and replacing more animal meat with plant-based alternatives for health and environmental reasons.

Increasingly, creating options that help consumers eat less meat also makes commercial sense, Carmichael said.

“As we see consumers’ needs change, more so now than any time in history, we want to make sure we have a variety of offers that keep pace and/or lead where consumers are going,” he said. “We believe in the plant-based movement as an enduring consumer trend and we want to be there as more consumers see it as a way to eat.”

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I’m a staff writer and editor at SmartBrief, where I work on briefs and write blog posts about the food, beverage and retail industries. I earned my bachelor’s degree in...