There have been a number of exciting acquisitions and investments in the plant-based food space in the past few years. From Danone, a world-leading company that made its fortune in dairy, acquiring mega-company WhiteWave for its plant-based milk brands to Tyson, one of the world’s biggest meat producers, investing in Beyond Meat, it seems that Big Food is catching on to the fact that the future of food is plant-based – and they’re betting their money on it.
Seeing giant food conglomerates introduce more plant-based and vegan options into their portfolios is very exciting because, frankly, our current food system is broken. In the developed, and developing, world, diets that are heavy in meat and dairy are the norm, but this way of eating has devastating effects on the environment and human health – not even mentioning the animal welfare concerns. In fact, we currently devote over half of the world’s land resources and a majority of our freshwater to the industrial animal agriculture system, and although we grow enough crops to feed around 10 billion people on the planet, around one billion still suffer from hunger. Feeding animals to create food for people uses way more resources than it provides and it’s making us sick. While many people are starting to wake up to this fact, the reality is our government rewards meat and dairy producers, making it easy for companies to churn out cheap, unhealthy food. If you’ve ever wondered why you can get a cheeseburger for $3 and most salads ring in at about $10, this is why.
But, if the big companies who have made billions of dollars making some of these foods start to focus on producing healthier, more sustainable, plant-based meals and snacks, then this vicious cycle can begin to end. Thankfully, that is what is happening and it’s being driven by consumer demand.
In a recent episode of #EatForThePlanet with Nil Zacharias, Nil speaks with Kelly Swette, CEO of Sweet Earth Enlightened Foods, a company that makes frozen and ready to eat plant-based meals and snacks, about her company’s recent acquisition by Nestlé. For Kelly, making healthy, affordable, and accessible food is her mission in life, and seeing the company that she helped build from the ground on sound principles get purchased from a giant like Nestlé is a sign that people who wanted better choices have “won.”
It’s no secret that consumers are becoming more aware of what they eat and how it is produced. They’re looking for foods that are nutrient dense and packed with whole ingredients, and Sweet Earth provides just that in a convenient package. Since they started in 2012, Sweet Earth has been met with incredible success and have grown from a small local company, to one that has national distribution. As a testament to how well they’ve done, they were recently acquired by Nestlé, which will allow them to expand their reach even further and drive down their prices.
Feedback from consumers has been mixed on the acquisition, especially considering Nestlé doesn’t have the best track record for being sustainable or transparent, a point that Kelly openly addresses in the conversation. However, in Kelly’s view, the only way to change the food system is to change Big Food itself. After all, if small, healthy food companies are catching the eye of one of the largest food conglomerates in the world, then it’s clear the times are changing.
For more from Kelly on why they sold and how she plans to reform the food system, listen in!
You can listen to the full episode below or on the following platforms: iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher.
If you like this episode, be sure to subscribe to the #EatForThePlanet with Nil Zacharias podcast for new episodes with food industry leaders, health, and sustainability experts, as well as entrepreneurs and creative minds who are redefining the future of food.