Promising a delicious texture for those who would like to cut down on meat, but still enjoy tasty food, SWEET EARTH® might just be the answer to skyrocketing demand for plant-based products.
Business Executive Officer at Nestlé Professional, MENA Joe Aouad gives us a glimpse of the process, philosophy and sustainable promise behind the successful range.
Years ago, we would have never thought a plant-based burger could be a match for its meat counterparts. What are the components of a SWEET EARTH Awesome Burger, and how did you manage to get it just right?
We have a deep, unbridled love for the earth’s natural ingredients: leafy greens, lush fruits and savoury veggies. In our earliest days, we vowed to spend hours in this kitchen, creating delicious plant-based cuisine inspired by every corner of the earth and serving it to serious foodies and vegetarian newcomers alike.
The SWEET EARTH Awesome Burger contains 100% plant-based protein that gives you the real burger experience with no compromise on taste or texture. It consists of soy (non-GMO), wheat, beetroot concentrate and coconut oil. The protein is provided by soy and wheat, coconut oil gives the appearance of marbled fat, and beetroot concentrate creates the rich beefy colour.
It’s this passion for all Mother Earth’s gifts that allows us to create foods that nourish your mind, spirit and body in equal measure, and that’s what we promise, every single time.
How do you see the trend towards a more plant-based lifestyle in the region, and more specifically in the UAE?
The plant-based lifestyle has been growing year on year; 65% of diners are now choosing plant-based meals and there are three main reasons why people are making the switch. Firstly, and most importantly, some consumers are reducing the amount of meat in their diet for health reasons.
Another major concern is the impact of meat on the environment, especially for millennials. Thirdly, animal welfare is another key reason for people switching to a plant-based diet. With this, we built our range to offer customers plant-based meals with all the taste and enjoyment traditionally associated with meat.
What about the rise of the ‘flexitarian’ diet?
Plant-based diets are no longer just for vegetarians and vegans. More and more people are becoming flexitarian in their eating habits – choosing to reduce their meat consumption at some or even all their meals. Meat consumption is decreasing by 25% in countries across the world and, each year, there are 76 million new vegetarians. Plant-based food is now for everyone.
Why is it so important to move away from animal meat?
With 30% of the earth’s entire land surface covered with livestock, raising cattle generates more of the greenhouse gases responsible for global warming than transportation.
Plant-based diets are proven to be less environmentally intensive than meat-based ones, with animal agriculture putting a burden on our planet’s health due to resources required (land, food and water). This causes greenhouse gas emissions which stop heat from escaping the planet and contribute to climate change. It’s also associated with other environmental concerns including deforestation and air and water pollution in surrounding communities.
We plan to continue to develop a wide range of tasty plant-based food options that will help preserve our planet for future generations. Limiting meat consumption can help reduce the environmental impact in the long run.
What are the best ways for chefs to make the most out of the SWEET EARTH offering?
Not only does the AWESOME burger taste great, but it’s also awesome for the body. With less fat, similar protein value and more fibre* in comparison to raw beef burger, chefs can offer guilt-free indulgence for their customers.
The AWESOME burger allows you to offer delicious and easy-to-prepare options that can cater to every diner’s preferences and needs. Served as a ‘classic burger’ or with a Mexican twist, the patty is very versatile and can handle any flavours chefs throw at it. It’s also so convenient to prepare and will fit the operations of almost any kitchen as it can be fried, grilled or baked and still taste AWESOME.
There is a misconception that plant-based offerings make for higher prices; can small businesses benefit from this range as much as larger chains?
Small businesses can still benefit from our range. Our products are all made with high quality ingredients: they have more flexibility in creating premium and innovative dishes and can charge higher prices.
Studies have shown that, globally, 60% of consumers are more concerned about quality than low prices. Therefore, they are willing to pay more for better quality meals and ingredients.
In which countries do you offer the range now and what’s coming up next?
We have just launched SWEET EARTH in the UAE and Kuwait with our hero product, the Vegan AWESOME burger, Vegetarian Nuggets and the Vegetarian Schnitzel. Early next year, we will be expanding into Saudi Arabia and Qatar. We’re also planning on introducing some new, exciting products such as the Vegan AWESOME Sausage, Vegetarian Chargrilled Pieces and Vegan Meatballs.
There are plenty of global plant-based brands entering the UAE market now, in addition to increasing demand from the F&B industry; how have you created a stand-out product?
Our product is simply AWESOME; we strive to ensure that there’s no compromise on taste or texture. It’s juicy, has a meaty taste and the texture of ground beef, exactly as you would expect from a beef burger.
It transforms during cooking, gets caramelised and crispy on the outside, and stays juicy on the inside. Aside from this, it has a superior nutritional profile. Our products have been benchmarked to Nutri-Score, a voluntary front-of-pack system developed by France. It rates the overall nutritional profile of packaged foods with a colour-coded system and a scale ranging from A (healthier) to E (less healthy choice).
Our patty has a scored a Grade A on the Nutri-Score compared to a B or C of other competitor plant-based patties. With our strong expertise in R&D, our products are regularly being improved and we try to develop more relevant ranges within our portfolio.
Nestlé’s strong network of Advisory Chefs will be able to partner with our customers during every step of the way to ensure positive results in a healthy and tasty product. Moreover, Nestlé Professional is also offering continuous marketing support to work on joint business plans and help build awareness, generating more footfall for this new category.
What does the GCC market lack in terms of plant-based offerings?Awareness and availability. Most people are not aware of what plant-based products are, what they are made of and the health benefits of consuming these in comparison to meat.
Consumers who are looking for meat alternatives say they are difficult to find, as they are not widely available in the out-of-home industry. Those outlets that do cater to vegans and flexitarians still lack in providing a great alternative in terms of taste and texture.
Is plant-based the future of food?
Our region is heavily affected by health-related concerns such as obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol etc. Reducing the consumption of meat can be a great aid to these concerns, which is why HEALTH is the #1 motivation to switch to plant-based meat alternatives in the EMENA. Add this to the sustainability of our planet and an AWESOME tasting range; yes, it is the future of food.
*Figures for patty only, do not include seasoning, bun or sauce, etc. Raw ground beef from the USDA food database 2019. Source: Nestlé 2019 comparative LCA study. Comparative numbers are based on the Sweet Earth Awesome Burger data and average data for beef burger, coming from dairy cow meat, consumed in restaurants in Europe.