About 18 months ago, Nestlé debuted its plant-based Garden Gourmet range in the UK retail market. Less than a year later, the company withdrew its products, with observers suggesting that, despite success in continental Europe, the brand had failed to differentiate itself in Britain's extremely competitive vegetarian and vegan landscape.
Now, Garden Gourmet is returning, this time in the out-of-home market. Last week, Nestlé Professional launched a five-strong range of vegetarian and vegan options to be utilised in restaurants, backed by a new report showing that over 50% of diners would like more meat-free options when they dine out.
“The increasing number of flexitarians in the UK reflects the need for more meat-free alternatives. The out-of-home dining sector has evolved over the past few years, but our research found consumers are still looking for more meat-free options on menus,” said Rohini Alam, savoury food category manager for Nestlé Professional.
What’s on offer?
The five options include two different burger options: the vegetarian Burger Deluxe and the vegan Incredible Burger. Earlier this month, the latter was announced as the official vegan partner of Manchester City football club, and it is essentially Nestlé’s ‘bleeding burger’ option, made with soya and wheat, as well as beetroot, carrot and bell pepper plant extracts.
Soya and wheat also form the basis of the Breaded Fillets – a coated chicken analogue –while the Fillet Pieces rely principally on soy to deliver a product that is designed to work in everything from stir-fries and curries to salads and terrines.
Rounding out the line-up is the vegan mince, which, like all the Garden Gourmet options being made available by Nestlé Professional, qualify for both ‘source of fibre’ and ‘high in protein’ claims.
“From our research, we’ve found that people can be disappointed by the taste or monotony of vegan and vegetarian options when eating out of home, so we’ve worked hard to make tasty, meat-free alternatives that can easily replace many classic meat-based menu items,” said Alam. “The texture and taste of the products really make this a versatile and easy-to-use range for chefs.”
Nestlé Professional is also emphasising that its products are healthier than many comparable plant-based options on the market, noting that this is important to consumers: the findings of its 'Balancing Plates: Navigating Consumer Dining Demands' report found 71% of British diners want more healthy options on menus.
It has been keen to push the environmentally friendly credentials of the Garden Gourmet options, too, after finding that 55% of diners would be more likely to choose a restaurant with sustainable menu options.
“Alongside rises in consumer preferences for flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan diets, we have seen increasing research which tells us that moderating our meat consumption, particularly red meat, is both good for our health and good for the planet,” said Anna Turrell, head of sustainability at Nestlé UK & Ireland. “Intensive animal farming can have a significant impact on the environment, and is linked with deforestation, biodiversity loss and soil erosion.”
While there are many ways to tackle the eco challenge – the Sustainable Restaurant Association recently highlighted how some of its Food Made Good award winners have attacked the issue – Nestlé has specifically noted the fact that Garden Gourmet requires less water and land to produce than meat, also noting that it entails lower greenhouse gas emissions. It also claims that the soybeans used are all carefully sourced.
The Nestlé Professional approach appears to be backed up by other studies into eating habits and sustainability: 57% of diners will choose a restaurant that provides sustainable food over one that doesn't, according to a Bookatable report released in October, while analytics company Future Thinking believe as many as one in five people have cut back on their meat consumption in the last year.
5 stats from Nestlé’s 'Balancing Plates' report
- Over 50% of diners would like more meat-free options when eating out, according to Nestlé Professional’s survey of 1,000 UK consumers. This rises to 64% for those aged 18-35.
- More dietary data on menus is desired by 71%, while 74% would like different portion options
- 58% say they struggle to maintain a healthy diet when eating out
- In addition to wellbeing, environmental concerns are also hugely impactful, with 55% saying they would be more inclined to choose a restaurant that boasted eco credentials. Again, this was more important for 18-35s (64%) than the over 65s (49%)
- 28% of people have not made repeated visits to a restaurant due to sustainability concerns, rising to 48% for Generation Z (18-24)