Beyond Meat Soars in Public Debut, and CEO Looks to New 'Moonshot' Products

Mark Lennihan/AP/Shutterstock
May 2, 2019

By Chloe Aiello

Shares of Beyond Meat more than doubled in trading Thursday afternoon when the meat-alternative company debuted on the Nasdaq.

Shares opened for trading under the ticker "BYND" at $46 apiece, about 80 percent higher than its IPO price of $25. Stock was last trading past $60 per share, more than 170 percent higher than the IPO price. Beyond Meat had expected its shares to trade between $23 and $25, according to its prospectus.

"We've really been focused on one thing, which is to build a piece of meat perfectly from plants," Beyond Meat co-founder and CEO Ethan Brown told Cheddar. "That whole process has occurred with the consumer. So the consumer's voice is in this product in so many ways, to welcome them in as owners now is a feeling that I can't even describe."

Beyond Meat, which sells plant-based meat alternative products to grocery stores and food service outlets, plans to use proceeds from the offering to invest in manufacturing, research and development, marketing, and, potentially, acquisitions. Brown said Beyond Meat not only plans on continuously "collapsing the gaps every year between animal protein and ours," but also hopes to introduce new moonshot products, like steak and bacon, until it has "an entire meat case" full of plant-based meat.

Since the company's business model is built not only to appeal to vegan and vegetarian customers, but also to meat-eaters (the company even requests its burgers be sold alongside meat burgers in stores), it faces competition from plant-based companies like Gardein, Morningstar Farms, and Tofurkey, as well as from conventional animal protein companies.

"We compete with conventional animal-protein companies, companies such as Cargill, Hormel, JBS, Tyson, and WH Group (including its Smithfield division), who may have substantially greater financial and other resources than us and whose animal-based products are well-accepted in the marketplace today," the prospectus reads.

And the competition is only getting stiffer. Tyson was previously a shareholder in Beyond Meat, but decided to offload its 6.5 percent stake just prior to the IPO so it can develop its own alternative protein, Reuters reported. Nestle also reportedly has a meat-free burger on the way.

"If you look at some of the other large companies getting in, they'll probably do a good job, but we don't think about that. What we think about is ... How can we innovate so quickly that what the consumer is buying today, we are going to delight them with what we replace it with a year from now? If we keep that mentality that got us here going, I think it's going to be hard to catch us," Brown said.

Beyond Meat faces other challenges, as well, like distribution. An acquisition by a larger company could have solved some of those problems, but Brown insists Beyond Meat wants to be a big protein company, not to be owned by a large protein company.

"I think globally, the opportunity here is so big and the ceiling is yet defined," Brown said. "We believe there is a latent human desire for this to work. We love meat, I love meat, we want to keep eating meat. But let's figure out a way to do it that's better for our bodies and better for the earth."

For full interview click here.