The meatless burger space is becoming more crowded as the big boys move in.
Nestlé became the latest to announce plans to launch a meatless analogue burger, with a rollout scheduled for this fall. The Awesome Burger will be produced by Nestlé’s Sweet Earth unit, a business it acquired in 2017.
Sweet Earth had been producing plant-based protein, including meatless bacon and ham. It also has a veggie burger, but the Awesome Burger, based on pea protein, will be its first analogue burger. Sweet Earth’s founders told CNBC that the Awesome Burger has been in development for several years, and that the sourcing and distribution power of Nestlé will give them a competitive advantage in the increasingly crowded field.
The news comes on the heels of Tyson Foods' announcement that it will market its own line of analogue meats this summer, following the withdrawal of its investment from Beyond Meat. Unilever is also in the plant-based meat market with its acquisition last year of The Vegetarian Butcher, a Dutch company.
The interest by large companies is being sparked by the success of analogue burgers in fast food chains. Demand is so high that the two independent processing leaders, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, are struggling to keep up. According to a Technomic study cited by the Wall Street Journal, some 15% of U.S. restaurants offered meatless burgers in March. Executives of White Castle and Burger King are crediting the addition of meatless burgers with driving a significant increase in same-store sales.