Picture: 123rf/KEN WOLTER
Picture: 123rf/KEN WOLTER

Zurich — Nestlé could expand its plant-based burger sales partnership with fast-food chain McDonald’s beyond Germany and is also looking for other partners, the Swiss food company says.

“McDonald’s is an exciting and big customer, but it is not the only option and we have quite good capacity to cope with a possible extension beyond Germany,” Marco Settembri, the CEO of Nestlé’s Europe, Middle East and North Africa business, said.

The market for meat substitutes could soar to $140bn over the next decade, according to Barclays, as many health- and climate-conscious consumers seek to reduce their meat consumption.

Nestlé launched its plant-based Incredible Burger in April under the Garden Gourmet brand in several European countries. The same month, McDonald’s started selling the patties as “Big Vegan TS” in its 1,500 restaurants in Germany.

Early results of the launch in Germany were promising, Settembri said, and Nestlé and McDonald’s were discussing next steps.

“For both [of us], if we do it, if we go ahead, we want to do it right. We have capacity of course, but we really need to plan it and we need to do it well,” he told a Deutsche Bank conference.

Nestlé is also working with other operators to supply products to business customers, but Settembri insisted that the company’s retail channel, a “historical strength”, was very important as well.

He did not see the meat alternatives as a threat to Nestlé’s existing business as it does not have many meat products and recently put its Herta meat and cold cuts unit on the block.

Nestlé has also announced plans to launch a plant-based burger in the US later in 2019, where it will compete with products made by Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods.

In an interview with Reuters last week, the heads of Nestlé’s Sweet Earth brand, Kelly and Brian Swette, said their Awesome Burger would be available from retailers and at restaurants in the US in September or October. They declined to comment on a possible launch with McDonald’s.