American adults eat about 50 billion hamburgers each year, or roughly three burgers per week. That average is much higher than France, where adults eat about one burger per month.
Mark Schneider, CEO of Nestlé, says the business opportunity in the U.S. isn’t gaining a piece of the market’s burger consumption, but instead, in bringing down overall U.S. meat consumption by getting consumers to eat plant-based burgers, he said at the Fortune Global Forum in Paris.
“In the western world in particular, no one talks about cutting out animal proteins,” he told Fortune. However, consumers in countries like the U.S. are so “over-indexed on animal proteins” that reducing their intake would lead to automatic health and environmental impact, he added.
“Think about raising plants first to feed an animal so that animal then feeds man, as opposed to raising the plants right away and with those plants feeding man,” Schneider said. “It’s so obvious it doesn’t need explanation, so over time making progress on that is key.”
Nestlé recently joined the growing plant-based burger industry, launching its Awesome Burger in September. Schneider wants to up the ante with what he calls their “triple play,” which is a bacon cheeseburger. He told Fortune that some companies make a good plant-based patty, a good cheese or a good bacon, but Nestlé can do all three well.
“We wanted to show our quick service partners that if you partner with us, you can get a complete kit from one hand,” Schneider explained.
Schneider took issue with the thought that small startups have been the pioneers in the plant-based market, and that it’s only just now that the larger brands want in on the action. He noted to Fortune that Nestlé had been developing plant-based proteins since the 1980s and that this experience has helped it get its product to market faster. Schneider said that it took 18 months from the time the company decided to make a plant-based burger to the time it was on the shelves.