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Wall Street Goes Vegan: Beyond Meat Prepares for IPO

Mary Mazzoni headshotWords by Mary Mazzoni
Investment & Markets
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Plant-based meat purveyor Beyond Meat is set to go public before the summer, according to a prospectus filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. 

The company's alternative meats are a hit with vegans and non-vegans alike. And since they're made from plant ingredients like yellow pea protein, their greenhouse gas footprint is 90 percent lower than conventional meats, according to the prospectus. They're also cholesterol-free, addressing a key health concern associated with excessive meat consumption, according to the company. 

Beyond Meat expects its IPO to price between $19 and $21 per share, CNBC reported on Monday. The higher end of that estimate would give the company a market value of more than $1.2 billion, reports the Guardian—making it the latest Silicon Valley unicorn. 

It's already been a big year for Beyond Meat. The company's plant-based ground beef recently debuted at fast-food giant Del Taco, and its vegan Beyond Burger hit the menu at more than 1,000 Carl’s Junior locations back in January. Mainstream retailers such as Kroger, Target, and Whole Foods already carry the brand's vegan burgers, sausages, chicken strips and ground beef substitutes. 

The company will raise up to $183.8 million through its IPO, which will go toward expanding its manufacturing facilities, building new ones, and investing in research and development, MarketWatch reported. A new manufacturing plant in Columbia, Missouri, helped the company increase its production capacity threefold last year. 

Still, as reporter Kelsey Piper noted in Vox, "The company has never been profitable and lost $29 million in 2018." But that may not be the case for long. Beyond Meat's revenues grew by 70 percent in 2018, Forbes reported. And with the plant-based food segment expanding rapidly, those numbers may only be the tip of the iceberg. 

U.S. sales of plant-based alternatives to meat, dairy and eggs grew by 17 percent from 2017 to 2018, compared to only 2 percent for the food sector overall, according to market research from Nielsen. 

"Savvy retailers are also changing the way they merchandise plant-based meats, shelving them adjacent to conventional meat instead of in a separate 'vegetarian section,' thereby opening up the category to many more shoppers," Caroline Bushnell, senior marketing manager for the nonprofit Good Food Institute, which commissioned the research, wrote in a blog post. Similarly, "plant-based milk sales took off after retailers started shelving plant-based milk in the refrigerated section next to cow’s milk," Bushnell wrote.

Plant-based milk sales increased by 9 percent in 2018, and vegan milks now account for 13 percent of the total milk market. As former Pinnacle Foods CEO Robert Gamgort told Bushnell, “Plant-based meats are in the early stages of a macro-trend, similar to the way plant-based milks changed the dairy category.”

According to market research, this shift may happen fast, with the plant-based protein segment expected to be worth $5 billion by 2020. With its focus on creating vegan alternatives that taste just like the real thing, Beyond Meat is poised to capitalize as analog meats continue to mainstream. 

“Beyond Meat was the first company to really set its sights on creating meat from plants that could compete on the basis of the things that meat eaters like about meat,” Bruce Friedrich of the Good Food Institute told Vox. “Before Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, there was really this sense that plant-based foods [were] for vegetarians. People like [Beyond Meat founder and CEO] Ethan Brown said, ‘No, we can make plant-based foods that meat eaters like just as much.’”

While Beyond Meat will be the first plant-based protein company to go public, it likely won't be the last. Its largest competitor, Impossible Foods, recently inked a deal with Burger King and is already featured at other mainstream restaurant chains like White Castle. And a wide array of upstart and legacy companies are set to debut new plant-based products this year. 

Even Beyoncé and Jay-Z are making the case for a plant-based diet. “We all have a responsibility to stand up for our health and the health of the planet,” the couple wrote in the introduction to a new book by Marco Borges, Beyoncé’s trainer. 

Sure, climate scientists and medical researchers have been telling us to eat less meat for years. But let’s be honest: Now that Bey is on this train, there’s no stopping it. Just buckle up and enjoy the ride. 

Image courtesy of Beyond Meat 

Mary Mazzoni headshotMary Mazzoni

Mary Mazzoni, Senior Editor, has written for TriplePundit since 2013. She is also Managing Editor of CR Magazine and the Editor of 3p’s Sponsored Series. Mazzoni’s recent work can be found in Conscious CompanyAlterNet and VICE’s Motherboard. She is based in Philadelphia, PA.

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