Nestlé USA has announced that it has agreed to acquire Sweet Earth - a plant-based food manufacturer based in California.
The move comes as food conglomerates try to freshen their image and respond to rapidly changing consumer tastes.
The acquisition will give Nestle a foothold in the small but promising market for vegetarian and “plant-based foods,” which it forecasts will reach $5.3 billion worldwide by 2020.
The husband-and-wife startup makes plant-based foods such as frozen meals, burritos, breakfast sandwiches, and meat-alternatives “Harmless Ham” and “Benevolent Bacon.”
"In the United States, we're experiencing a consumer shift toward plant-based proteins. In fact, as many as 50%of consumers now are seeking more plant-based foods in their diet and 40% are open to reducing their traditional meat consumption," said Paul Grimwood, Nestlé USA Chairman and CEO.
"One of Nestlé's strategic priorities is to build out our portfolio of vegetarian and flexitarian choices in line with modern health trends. With unique and nutritious food for all times of the day, Sweet Earth gives Nestlé a leading position in this emerging space."
Sweet Earth products are sold in more than 10,000 US retail stores, including Whole Foods, Target, Kroger and Walmart.
It also operates a 40,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Moss Landing, California.
Both co-founders, Kelly and Brian Swette, will continue to lead the brand under Nestle’s ownership.
Kelly Swette said: "Our products meet the demands of flavour-forward consumers who want more plant-based foods, especially millennials who want convenient, real food and flexitarians who are looking to include more vegetables and plant-based proteins in their diet.
"Nestlé's acquisition validates what forward-thinking consumers and retailers have been demanding for a while -- more wholesome and sustainable choices."