Unilever said it has acquired Britain’s Pukka Herbs, a rapidly expanding organic-tea company. Nestle agreed to buy California-based Sweet Earth, which makes frozen meals and chilled, plant-based burgers.

Share story

Food giants Unilever and Nestlé stepped up their push into more healthful food and drink, with the Anglo-Dutch company snapping up a U.K. maker of organic tea and its Swiss rival announcing a deal for a U.S. seller of vegetarian burritos.

Unilever said it has acquired Pukka Herbs, a rapidly expanding organic-tea company with flavors such as turmeric gold and mint matcha. Nestlé agreed to buy California-based Sweet Earth, which makes frozen meals and chilled, plant-based burgers.

The acquisitions show how Big Food, spurred on by Amazon.com’s acquisition of Whole Foods, is accelerating efforts to expand beyond mainstream brands into more healthful or ethically sourced fare.

Pukka, with more than 30 million pounds ($39 million) in sales, is growing rapidly in the U.S. and Europe, Unilever said in a statement Thursday. The herbal, fruit and green tea market is worth 1.6 billion euros ($1.9 billion), research firm Euromonitor said.

Most Read Stories

Cyber Sale! Save 90% on digital access.

At Nestlé, Chief Executive Officer Mark Schneider has jump-started efforts to meet changing consumer demands for more healthful products since taking over in January. The maker of Nespresso coffee has put its U.S. confectionery business up for sale and acquired a stake in U.S. startup Freshly, which makes natural prepared meals.

“Plant-based food is a significant trend for consumers, and getting exposure to it is clearly important to Nestlé as it’s something they’re lacking,” said Robert Waldschmidt, an analyst at Liberum.

Neither Unilever nor Nestlé disclosed terms of their purchases.

Sweet Earth, founded in 2011, will continue to operate independently, with support from Nestlé USA’s food division, the Swiss company said. Its meals are sold in more than 10,000 stores, including grocers like Whole Foods and Wal-Mart Stores.