Nestlé increased its bets on organic and health-conscious foods Thursday with the acquisition of Sweet Earth, the Californian-based maker of vegan meals and snacks made from plant-based proteins.
The Swiss-based food giant says it expects the U.S. market for plant-based foods such as Sweet Earth’s Harmless Ham and Benevolent Bacon to be worth around $5 billion by 2020, as environmental and dietary trends push consumers in the direction of more sustainable food production methods. Sweet Earth trades on the fact that its plant-based substitutes are not only healthier but also more environmentally friendly, generating a much smaller carbon footprint and requiring much less water to produce than comparable animal-based products.
Read: Nestle Plans $20.8 Billion Share Buyback Amid Pressure From Daniel Loeb’s Third Point
Sweet Earth’s products are already stocked across the U.S. in more than 10,000 stores, including independent natural grocers, Whole Foods, Target, Kroger, and Walmart.
Paul Grimwood, Nestlé USA Chairman and CEO, said in a statement that up to half of its customers are seeking more plant-based foods in their diet “and 40 percent are open to reducing their traditional meat consumption.”
Read: Nestle Leads $77M Funding Round In Meal-Delivery Startup Freshly
As such, he said, “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 will continue to be led by its founders Kelly and Brian Swette, and will operate broadly independently of Nestlé USA’s Food Division. The deal comes only a few weeks after Nestle took an equity stake in Freshly, a direct-to-consumer delivery service, another deal that reflects its efforts to adapt to changing trends in the foods market.
Financial terms weren’t disclosed.