Nestlé is to withdraw its plant-based Wunda and Garden Gourmet brands from sale in the UK, alongside its Mezeast brand, as they are “not viable” in current market conditions.
The trio will start disappearing from UK supermarket shelves during the second quarter of this year, following a strategic review.
The brands, which have all launched in the UK since 2020, are now operating in a “very different and uncertain economic climate”, said Nestlé UK & Ireland Food MD Honza Dusanek, who cited competitive market conditions plus increased production costs exacerbated by the war in Ukraine as a key driver in the food giant’s decision.
Pea protein-based Wunda first went on sale in the UK in June 2021 and was pitched as a more environmentally-friendly alternative to rivals made from ingredients such as soya almond and oat.
Nestlé relaunched the brand last October with a new pack design playing up its key ingredient. However, it registered sales of just under £1m last year, according to data for The Grocer’s Top Products report [NIQ 52 w/e 10 September 2022], while market leaders Alpro and Oatly registered a combined £166m.
Garden Gourmet – which has been a success in Europe – initially launched in the UK in 2019 but was withdrawn within a year due to poor sales. It returned to UK supermarkets in September 2021 in a second attempt to crack the meat-free market.
But the brand registered sales of just £2.2m last year, compared with more than £155m for the category’s biggest brand, Quorn.
This demonstrated just how “tough” the meat-free market was, Dusanek told The Grocer.
Meanwhile, Middle Eastern-inspired Mezeast, which comprised a range of seasonings, sauces, meal kits, spreads and pastes had similarly struggled to make enough headway in the UK market since its launch in 2021, he added.
Nestlé was “incredibly proud of these brands and our teams [have] worked very hard to establish them”. But all three would require big cash injections to make further headway in the mults, he suggested.
“We believe it is right at this time to focus our investment and resources on our strong core portfolio, rather than the significant investment required in new brands,” Dusanek said. He added there were stronger growth opportunities for the Maggi brand, plus DTC recipe box business Mindful Chef and meal kit brand Simply Cook, which Nestlé acquired in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
He also stressed Nestlé was not walking away from the plant-based category altogether, pointing to how Mindful Chef and Simply Cook both offered “extensive vegan and plant-based options, and we see opportuninnties to invest in and leverage these brands (and their unique and differentiated offerings) over the next few years”.
Garden Gourmet products will continue to be sold in foodservice in the UK and Ireland.