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‘An important growth platform for us’: Nestlé eyes plant-based sector with Garden Gourmet

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Garden Gourmet and Maggie will drive growth in the UK, Foods MD Paula Jordan says
Garden Gourmet and Maggie will drive growth in the UK, Foods MD Paula Jordan says
Nestlé has kicked its innovation engine up a gear and is rolling out new products that tap into emerging consumer trends. Nestlé UK Food MD Paula Jordan tells FoodNavigator that plant-based is “an important growth platform” for the company in Europe and globally.

Nestlé is launching Garden Gourmet, its European meat-free brand, in the UK. The move is part of a broader drive into the plant-based protein space, Jordan explained.

“The brand stated in Israel. It is now in France, Germany, the Netherlands, the Nordics and Italy. We will continue to evaluate the relevance of the brand to future European markets. I fully expect it to be across additional European markets, it really is an important growth platform for us,”​ she revealed.

Indeed, Jordan confirmed, Garden Gourmet could potentially be rolled out on a global scale.

“The trend of meat free is definitely global. Within Europe and the US it is quite well developed. We have a couple of propositions in the US. At this stage, we are still evaluating the relevance of the different brands across different markets. We have not made any final decisions on whether Garden Gourmet would go to the US or vice versa. The portfolio of brands indicates how important it is for Nestlé to continue to meet new and emerging consumer needs and we meet them in the most relevant way.”

Jordan said she expects the brand to prove popular with UK consumers, despite the developed nature of the UK plant-protein market.

‘There is an opportunity to disrupt’

The UK alternative protein sector is already well developed, with existing strong brands as well as a high level of private label activity. Nevertheless, Jordan predicted that Garden Gourmet can disrupt the sector while also driving incremental growth.

“We believe that it is an opportunity to disrupt. All NPD can be challenging because you have to get it right for all the stakeholders – consumer, customer, category… The reason we believe we [will] disrupt is we have a unique proposition made from ingredients you know and love, things you will recognise, and also it’s a complete range.”

Jordan said Nestlé has identified an important opportunity. While lots of UK consumers enter the meat free category, repeat purchase levels are low.

We feel we can disrupt by attracting consumers and shoppers in but most importantly keeping them in the category,”​ she said.

“Flexitarinism and vegetarianism is quite well developed in the UK but when we looked at market opportunity and segment opportunity, we saw lots of people are trying to reduce their meat consumption and find alternative proteins but at the moment they will have it once and not come back.”

Driving repeat purchase

Having identified this “category tension​” Nestlé began investigating how it can be overcome.

“We identified two-to-three key things that are stopping people being as excited as they should be. The first one is taste – when they have tried the products already out there, they have not been satisfied with the taste either because its bland or it just doesn’t meet their needs. The second is that they don’t know what to do with it. We are doing a lot of work with recipe hubs, online and through consumer communication.

“The third thing is they don’t always know where to find it in store. Because these consumers are not vegetarian, they are just trying to reduce their meat consumption, it is not a destination purchase. With Garden Gourmet we are trying to make sure it is front of mind.”

Garden Gourmet launched 12 products in the UK, with more in the pipeline

For this reason, it was vital for Nestlé to develop a full-rage spanning chilled and frozen products, meal solutions and snacking. “We have tried to build a broad range for the UK consumer and UK market. Because the market is a little more developed than other markets.

“We looked at the different types of products that meet consumer needs. We have made sure we have a full range of products – 12 products – that tap into the top meals that UK consumers prepare. Also we wanted to tap into snacking, with falafels,”​ Jordan explained.

Once [consumers] have tried it they will want to come back because of the great taste. And we are really trying to improve the relevance because we have a chilled range and a frozen range. We are across multiple segments so we will drive overarching relevance.”

In this way, Nestlé “absolutely​” expects to drive incremental growth. “Household penetration is around 37-38% in the UK but our goal is very much to drive the category, to attract new consumers in, and make sure that once they are in they come back and buy it.”

Top trends: Health, culinary and clean label

In developing products for the UK market, Jordan said Nestlé was focused on delivering culinary inspired, healthy products that were also clean label.

“Meat-free is a dynamic category in the UK and it is fast growing. We wanted to make sure that we launched with a winning brand, really tapping into the sense it’s a great quality product – the Gourmet part – and it’s a brand based on ingredients you know and love – the Garden piece. We feel it is that combination of ingredients that you know and love and great tasting that will really be the winning solution in the UK market.”

On clean label, Jordan said that Nestlé’s chefs and nutritionists worked to develop “simplified”​ recipes containing “familiar​” ingredients. “We don’t want consumers to be worrying about what they are consuming.”

The brand’s health profile was also important, she continued. Garden Gourmet products are a source of both protein and fibre and it was important to “keep the red off​” the brands front of pack traffic light labels.

We focused on the health and wellness trend. We wanted to make sure there are no artificial ingredients or preservatives. To make sure that all of our products, there is no red on the front of pack labelling. And also to ensure we are in line with salt targets for the UK.

“When you look at our recipes, we have simplified them down to be as relevant for as many people in the UK as possible. This isn’t a niche launch. It is really relevant for everybody. That is one of the reasons we are trying to offer something across all the segments in food.”

‘This is the beginning’

Jordan said that there is more innovation in the pipeline – for Garden Gourmet specifically and for Nestlé’s UK food business in general.

“This is really just the beginning. There is more where this came from. This the beginning of a new platform for growth for Nestlé. It is quite exciting because it is a new brand in a new segment. It is one of the most important areas of growth for us within food, Nestlé in the UK and Nestle within Europe.”

Nestlé’s UK food business also includes the Maggi brand – and the company has some significant plans to ramp up innovation here also.

Maggi, a household name in various global markets, is relatively new to the UK. “We have only been in the market for 7-8 years versus some of our other global markets where it has been a household name for much longer,”​ Jordan confirmed.

The UK executive believes Maggi has a clear runway of growth in the market. In particular, she stressed, Maggi feeds into the “authentic cuisine trend”​ that Nestlé believes is shaping consumer demand in the market .

“You will see hitting the market in the next 4-6 weeks: an extension of the Maggi Fusion brand – Maggi Fusion pots. We are taking out great tasting flavours, which have consumer preference, and putting them into on the go pots.

“We developing newer cuisine than we currently have. We are pretty good on Italian and Indian and Asian at the moment. You will see some further development into things like Thai foods.

“We know that Maggi is extremely relevant for UK consumers. We have a presence in a number of segments. So we can definitely continue to drive growth and relevance through new recipes, format and we have some new packaging coming out in September.”

Future trends

Looking at longer-term trends, Jordan said Nestlé will continue to focus its efforts on “making it easier​” for people to make healthier choices.

Last October, Nestlé UK pledged to include more vegetables in on-pack and online meal recommendations for their Maggi dry recipe mix range as part of the Peas Please initiative. The company's recipes now include at least two portions of vegetables. 

“We made a commitment globally to try and provide some support to help people eat healthier – whether it is the launch of new products or renovation of existing products."

She revealed that Nestlé is “very busy​” looking at trends “beyond plant protein”​ but would not be drawn on the direction the company sees global consumers travelling in.

“We are looking at longer term emerging trends beyond plant protein. We are looking at how we can continue to tap into those. We are always looking at things beyond the current.”

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Nestle dairy still one of the worst climate offenders

Posted by Stuart,

Good to see Nestle talking pushing on plant proteins but it sounds like they're only responding to consumer changes after the fact rather than leading - as the global food and beverage leader they are - to convert to plant proteins as quickly as possible. To show the way.

I'm talking about Nestle being one of the biggest dairy products purveyors around the world. Dairy cows (and beef cattle) emit enormous amounts of the green house gas methane out their mouths (and their rears and in their manure). Since methane is 25X more hurtful than CO2 in encouraging global warming, dairy is one of the most climate-unfriendly industries around. And Nestle is a global leader in dairy. Therefore, they are a laggard in implementing climate-friendly products.

When Nestle starts divesting of dairy product assets, or aggressively changes product ingredients from dairy and meat to plant-based proteins, even if those are a little more expensive, that's when I'll believe what the company says.

Anything else is just green washing. Time for global leaders like Nestle to step up and really walk the talk. All else is just hot air.

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What a pitty

Posted by Marinus Kruissen,

It is a pitty that a company like Nestle is now pedling 'foods' in the UK. Soon there will be no more EU protection and product laws, so water stealing companies, the cause of the drought in California USA is Nestle pumping up groundwater and selling it for a very high price to thirsty Californians, who have no alternative!
Half of the stuff Nestle produces is artificial, chemical! Eat your heart out, litterally.

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