From Crunch bars and Nesquik to plant-based snacks and protein powder, Nestlé is in the midst of a health transformation.
Snapping up brands in nutrition, meal delivery, and consumer care, the world’s largest food company is on a wellness buying spree.
Balancing Its Portfolio
Nestlé and its subsidiary Nestlé Health Science have been targeting nutrition for the past decade through a mix of acquisitions, in-house development, and some notable divestitures:
- In 2019, Nestlé sold its US candy business (the fourth largest at the time) to Ferrero.
- The same year, Nestlé divested from its US ice cream businesses, including Dreyer’s and Häagen-Dazs, selling to a spinoff organization for $4B.
In a deliberate pivot, the company has bulked up its portfolio with new brands and wellness categories, spanning functional water to keto dieting.
Healthy beverages. In 2017, Nestlé scooped up sustainability-minded Blue Bottle Coffee, scaling its 100 cafes and building out its e-commerce subscription service. A year later, it entered an RTD coffee retail partnership with Starbucks.
Entering functional hydration, Nestlé acquired Essentia, an alkaline water brand, in March 2021 and nuun, maker of performance hydration tablets, shortly thereafter.
Nutritional supplements. The corporation’s supplement portfolio is robust.
- Acquired Atrium Innovations (owner of Garden of Life and Pure Encapsulations) in 2018 for $2.3B
- Added personalized nutrition startup Persona in 2019
- Purchased Nature’s Bounty, Solgar, Osteo Bi-Flex, Puritan’s Pride, and other core brands from The Bountiful Co. in August 2021
In addition to poppable vitamins and supplements, Nestlé bought majority stakes in collagen protein company Vital Proteins (2020) and plant-based protein powder maker Orgain (2022). In February 2022, the company scooped up Vital Proteins’ remaining share to own it outright.
Plant-based foods. As well as joining the quest for cow-free burgers with the 2017 acquisition of US-based vegan food manufacturer Sweet Earth, the company has launched numerous plant-based products, including YES! protein bars, a vegan tuna alternative, and a plant-based shrimp product called Vrimp.
Meal kits. More than ingredients or freezer-aisle staples, Nestlé acquired both Freshly, a health-focused meal delivery startup, and the UK’s Mindful Chef, a subscription meal kit service.
Keto. From a clinical and consumer perspective, Nestlé Health Science is making keto a priority, acquiring European ketogenic dieting app PronoKal in 2022 and partnering with virtual clinical trial platform Healint to measure keto’s effectiveness on migraine treatment.
Nestlé’s journey from nougat to nutrition hasn’t been smooth sailing. In a leaked internal report obtained by the Financial Times in 2021, Nestlé acknowledged that over 60% of its food portfolio couldn’t be considered healthy.
But, as CPG giants Unilever and Bayer compete for massive opportunities in personalized nutrition, the money moves have only just begun.