In recent years, Nestlé’s Lean Cuisine has undergone a major brand overhaul to focus less on “diet”-friendly foods and more on organic, high-protein and gluten-free meals. Three years ago, Lean Cuisine expanded its frozen entree line to include meatless and mostly organic offerings under the Origins label.
It took that a step further in 2020 with the roll out of Life Cuisine, which taps into trends increasingly in demand by consumers during their everyday life. The latest products under the Life Cuisine brand prioritize better-for-you ingredients such as cauliflower rice, spiralized zucchini and Banza chickpea pasta.
“Eating well is no longer ‘one-size-fits-all,’ so our offerings can’t be either,” John Carmichael, president of Nestlé’s foods division, said last year.
While trends like high protein and low carb were trendy before COVID-19, the pandemic has acted as a catalyst to encourage more consumers to eat healthier, with plant-based meat and immunity-boosting products among the biggest beneficiaries. An estimated 75% of consumers globally plan to eat and drink healthier as a result of the pandemic, according to 2020 research by Beneo, a supplier of functional ingredients derived from chicory roots, beet sugar, rice and wheat.
For brands like Life Cuisine, the 2020 rollout marked a timely introduction with its product lineup further leaning into this push. The addition of Banza is an interesting addition, considering Nestlé is making the rare move of incorporating another brand it doesn’t own into its product lineup.
Banza, one of the fastest-growing pasta brands in the U.S., uses chickpeas because of their sustainability and nutritional content. According to the company, Banza pasta has nearly double the protein, three times the fiber and a third fewer net carbs than traditional pasta — attributes, as well as name recognition, that no doubt attracted the interest of Nestlé.
Analysts predict that the global chickpea market could grow at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 4% by the end of 2022 thanks to the growing demand for grain-free food products and plant-based foods.
The partnership with Banza could signify Nestlé is more willing to work with external brands that complement its portfolio. It also could be a way for the acquisition-happy Nestlé to discover other brands that could make for a target to buy in the future.
While Nestlé still has brands like Stouffer’s frozen meals, Tombstone pizza and Toll House chocolate chips, it has been moving aggressively to innovate its portfolio to keep it attuned with today’s trends.
It incorporated Sweet Earth Awesome Grounds, its plant-based ground beef option, into items that traditionally use the animal-based protein like DiGiorno Rising Crust Meatless Supreme and Stouffer’s Meatless Lasagna. Nestlé acquired Essentia, a maker of ionized alkaline water, for an undisclosed amount last month. And it recently launched S.Pellegrino Essenza with zero calories and sweeteners along with 30 milligrams of caffeine — about one-third of the amount in an average cup of coffee.