Twelve months since its debut on the American stock exchange, the alternative-meat company Beyond Meat continues to surprise many, with ongoing growth and a market value of more than $9.6 billion ($US6.19 billion).
Like a lot of publicly-listed companies, Beyond Meat’s share price crashed in March amid COVID-19 concerns, but its recovery has been noticeable — rising 49 per cent in April and now sitting at $US100, which means its stock has quadrupled from its initial public offering (IPO) price of $US25.
Overnight the company released its earnings for the first quarter of 2020, reporting a net income of $US1.8 million and revenue increasing 141 per cent to $US97.1 million, from a year ago.
“I am proud of our first-quarter financial results, which exceeded our expectations despite an increasingly challenging operating environment due to the Covid-19 health crisis,” CEO Ethan Brown said in a statement.
As traditional abattoirs continue to close in America amid COVID-19 outbreaks and the nation’s biggest meat processor, Tyson Foods, declaring “the food supply chain is breaking”, there are some now wondering if this pandemic will catapult the alternative-meat category even further.
Is anyone eating ‘fake meat’ during the pandemic?
Since the pandemic began earlier this year, a number of social media posts from across the world have suggested alternative-meats were not on people’s shopping list when panic buying.
Caroline Bushnell from the Good Food Institute said sales data in America did not back up those claims.
“Data from grocery stores around the country [according to Nielsen] shows plant-based meat and milk sales have skyrocketed in the last few months and have out-paced sales growth of conventional meat and milk sales,” she told ABC Rural.
“For example, dollar sales of fresh plant-based meat grew 454 per cent on the week ending March 21, while fresh [traditional] meat sales grew 100 per cent and we’ve seen that consistently week over week.
“These [plant-based] products are starting at a smaller base and you have to take that into account, but it is a positive sign they’re actually growing during this time and growing faster.”
Ms Bushnell said alternative-meat companies continued to strike major deals during the coronavirus pandemic, including Beyond Meat’s new contract to supply a range of products to Starbucks in China.
“There’s been big news for other companies too, like Impossible Foods, which has recently raised $500 million in its Series F round, at a valuation of nearly $US4 billion,” she said.
Beyond Meat, the year that was
Beyond Meat was the first alternative-meat company to debut on Wall Street and its first day of trading, which saw shares climb 163 per cent, was regarded as one of the biggest IPO’s in over a decade.
At one stage, stocks in Beyond Meat last year rose to $US234 a share.
Ms Bushnell said 2019 was an incredible year for the plant-based meat category and Beyond Meat going public “felt like the tipping point for the category going mainstream”.
“US retail sales of plant-based meats grew 18 per cent in 2019, with fresh plant-based meat sales up 63 per cent in 2019,” she said.
She said the plant-based meat category was still a very small part of the total “meat market”, but felt the industry could reach similar market share as what has been achieved by the plant-based milk category (think almond milk and soy milk), which held 14 per cent share of the total milk market.
“I think the future is bright and I expect the general trend will continue over the next few years as it’s become clear this is not a fad, but rather a real shift in consumer behaviour,” she said.
“While the current environment has created a lot of uncertainty in the market, the global appetite for protein is only going to rise and the world needs more solutions to meet this demand.
“So new methods of making meat, from plants and cells, can diversify and bolster global protein supplies.”
In its first quarter financial report, Beyond Meat admitted it was now navigating “headwinds” stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty has prompted the company to withdraw its 2020 financial outlook.