ANAHEIM, CALIF. — Awesome Burgers, GoodBe bars and Goodnight clusters are a sampling of the new products and concepts Nestle S.A. brought to this year’s Natural Products Expo West trade show, held March 6-9 in Anaheim, Calif. The company used the show to highlight its innovation efforts and seek pathways to bring scale to niche markets.
“We have a total of 10 booths; we have a huge presence at the show,” said Doug Munk, director of new business ventures for Nestle USA, Arlington, Va. “We realized that the natural and organic industry is booming, and instead of not showcasing the work we are doing we are very proud of it, and we want to really talk about the great things we are doing.”
The innovation is flowing through multiple channels, including companies Nestle has acquired as well as relationships it has formed with entrepreneurs through such business accelerators as Terra Food and Foundry Foods.
In 2017, Nestle acquired plant-based meal maker Sweet Earth Foods, Moss Landing, Calif. At this year’s show the company demonstrated what has been going on since the acquisition with the introduction of the Awesome Burger, Nestle’s entry into the crowded plant-based burger category.
“Our folks at Sweet Earth just developed it,” Mr. Munk said. “They are trying prototypes at the show and will be launching at the end of Q3, early Q4. They are working with our Nestle Science and Research Center in the development and bringing the best of the Sweet Earth brand and the science and R.&D. that is Nestle.”
Mr. Munk said the current iteration of the Awesome Burger is soy-based, but efforts are underway to remove the soy.
“They are really looking to optimize the space for meat alternatives,” he said.
The refrigerated bar category also has captured the attention of Nestle. At the show the company exhibited its GoodBe refrigerated bar formulated with granola, yogurt and probiotics.
“We really see the growth in the chilled snacking section Perfect Bar has created, and we are taking a really different positioning with probiotics, immunity health and digestive health,” Mr. Munk said.
An issue in the chilled bar category is identifying where to sell the product in retail stores. Depending on the retailer, products may be found near other fresh snacks like guacamole and hummus or near single-serve beverages. Mr. Munk said Nestle is testing GoodBe with the Wegmans retail chain and placing the bar in the single-serve snack area near checkout.
“They (Wegmans) are looking to have healthier snacks near checkout to compete against some of the indulgent snacks they have,” he said.
Mr. Munk added that he sees probiotics where protein was two or three years ago.
“We definitely see probiotics at that stage now,” he said. “We are looking at the $60 billion functional food and beverage category growing at 8%, and we are asking how we can help our consumers with digestive issues and immune benefits.”
Nestle was just one of many companies talking about “mood foods” at Natural Products Expo West this year. The company’s Goodnight snack clusters are formulated with magnesium, L-theanine and casein protein to help consumers sleep better.
“We all have sleep issues, and we wanted to create a natural product that could really help assist in people’s sleep,” Mr. Munk said.
Research has shown 80% of consumers say they want to find functional benefits in food and beverages vs. supplements, said Mr. Munk. Goodnight snacks are intended to take advantage of white space in the category.
“We are exclusively on Amazon, and we are really excited about just using that channel to learn and iterate as we go along,” Mr. Munk said. “(Goodnight) is confirming our beliefs that people are looking for a natural remedy for something they normally take in supplement form such as melatonin. We are also finding people are looking to replace some of their junk foods before they go to sleep with something that is a little better.”