Nestlé USA has acquired Sweet Earth, a plant-based frozen foods manufacturer based in Moss Landing, California. The transaction provides immediate entry into the vegetarian segment, which is growing by double digits and is expected to become a $5 billion market nationally by 2020.
Featuring meatless products such as Harmless Ham, Curry Tiger Burrito and Benevolent Bacon, and Breakfast Sandwich Trio, Sweet Earth’s portfolio caters to all meal occasions, diversifying Nestlé’s offerings beyond its existing meal, side dish and snack SKUs.
Launched in 2011 by co-founders Kelly and Brian Swette, Sweet Earth’s award-winning products are sold in more than 10,000 stores, including independent natural grocers, Whole Foods, Target, Kroger and Walmart.
“In the United States, we’re experiencing a consumer shift toward plant-based proteins. In fact, as many as 50 percent of consumers now are seeking more plant-based foods in their diet and 40 percent are open to reducing their traditional meat consumption,” said Paul Grimwood, Nestlé USA’s chairman and chief executive officer. “One of our 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 us a leading position in this emerging space.”
Sweet Earth presently produces 48 items in a 40,000-square-foot facility at its Moss Landing headquarters. The on-trend products feature global flavors and plant-based proteins like seitan (wheat-based), tofu and legumes such as lentils, chickpeas and beans.
The line spans three core platforms: entrees, breakfast and plant-based proteins called Righteous Meats. The nutritious offerings include a variety of vegan and ethnic-inspired choices such as General Tso’s Tofu and the Curry Tiger Burrito.
“Our products meet the demands of flavor-forward consumers who want more plant-based foods, especially millennials who want convenient food, and flexitarians who are looking to include more vegetables and plant-based proteins in their diet,” said Kelly Swette, Sweet Earth’s chief executive officer. “Nestlé’s acquisition validates what forward-thinking consumers and retailers have been demanding for a while – more wholesome and sustainable choices.”
Sweet Earth will continue to be led by Kelly and Brian Swette, as the business will operate independently with support from Nestlé USA’s Food Division.
This acquisition follows an equity stake taken recently in Freshly, a direct-to-consumer delivery service, and continues the company’s evolution into new products and categories that match changing consumer preferences.