Nestlé USA has agreed to acquire Sweet Earth, a California-based producer of plant-based foods, for an undisclosed sum.
Sweet Earth makes products for a range of occasions – including breakfast burritos and sandwiches, and frozen meals. It also makes a line of plant-based meat alternatives called Righteous Meats that highlight the company’s ethical stance. They include ‘harmless ham’ and ‘benevolent bacon’.
The acquisition is a further vote of confidence in the meat substitutes market, after Canada’s Maple Leaf Foods bought Lightlife for $140 million in February. It gives Nestlé immediate entry into the plant-based foods segment, which is growing by double digits and expected to become a $5 billion industry in the US alone by 2020.
Sweet Earth has listings in more than 10,000 US retail stores, including accounts with Whole Foods, Target, Kroger and Walmart.
It also operates a 40,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Moss Landing, California.
Nestlé USA chairman and CEO Paul Grimwood said: “In the United States, we’re experiencing a consumer shift toward plant-based proteins. In fact, as many as 50% of consumers now are seeking more plant-based foods in their diet and 40% are open to reducing their traditional meat consumption.
“One of Nestlé’s strategic priorities is to build out our portfolio of vegetarian and flexitarian choices in line with modern health trends. With unique and nutritious food for all times of the day, Sweet Earth gives Nestlé a leading position in this emerging space.”
Sweet Earth chief executive officer Kelly Swette, who founded the business with her husband Brian, said: “Our products meet the demands of flavour-forward consumers who want more plant-based foods, especially millennials who want convenient, real food and flexitarians who are looking to include more vegetables and plant-based proteins in their diet. Nestlé’s acquisition validates what forward-thinking consumers and retailers have been demanding for a while – more wholesome and sustainable choices.”
Both co-founders will continue to lead the business under Nestlé USA’s ownership.
The Sweet Earth acquisition follows Nestlé’s recent equity stake in Freshly, a direct-to-consumer delivery service, and continues the company’s evolution into new products and categories to match changing consumer preferences.
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