[Editor’s note: This article was originally published in August 2018. It has been revised to reflect current market trends.]
The IPO success of Beyond Meat (NASDAQ:BYND) has me revisiting the world of plant-based foods and exploring how investors can take advantage of the move to meatless alternatives.
Today, the global plant-based meat market is estimated to be $12.1 billion. It’s expected to grow to $27.9 billion by 2025, a compound annual growth rate of 15%.
While many companies have focused on vegetarian and vegan markets in the past, it’s clear that most food companies are now going after the “flexitarian” consumer: the person who still eats meat, but is opting for meatless alternatives regularly.
Today, 32% of Americans identify themselves as flexitarian.
As a result of this change in consumer tastes, companies have invested a total of $16 billion in plant-based meat, egg and dairy products. The “vegan wave” is now the flexitarian wave.
Regardless of what you want to call it, these seven companies are taking advantage of the move to meatless alternatives. And some of these stocks to buy might even make you a lot of money in the long run.
Beyond Meat (BYND)
By now, the Beyond Meat story is known by most investors, so I’ll keep the IPO details to a minimum.
The California plant-based food company went public on May 1 at $25 a share, selling 9.6 million of its stock for net proceeds of $219 million, not including the underwriters’ over-allotment. The company’s shareholders didn’t sell any of their shares in the IPO.
However, on Aug. 2, it did file a final prospectus that will see Beyond Meat sell 250,000 shares to the public along with some of its pre-IPO shareholders, selling 3 million shares of BYND stock.
The company wisely waived the 180-day lock-up period for its main investors so that they can cash out a portion of their shares while they’re up almost six-fold.
A fundamental capital allocation principle is to sell your stock when it is expensive and repurchase it when it’s cheap.
While Beyond Meat’s Q2 2019 net loss was $9.4 million, it did generate an operating profit of $2.2 million in the second quarter, a considerable improvement from the $7.3 million loss a year ago.
Oh, and it’s hard to forget revenues increased by 267% in the quarter to $67.3 million. As someone who buys their burgers quite frequently, it’s not hard to see why.
Tyson Foods (TSN)
A lot has happened since I last wrote about Tyson Foods (NYSE:TSN) and its foray into meatless alternatives. Some of it good, some of it bad.
In 2016, Tyson made a 5% investment in Beyond Meat, the company behind the burger that has taken Canada and the U.S. by storm. It upped its stake at the end of 2017 as part of a $55 million investment round by the California-based company.
“We got attacked when we signed a deal with Tyson. People said I personally have blood on my hands,” said Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown at the time. “Tyson took a big risk, too. I mean Hayes didn’t get any love letters when he backed us. But I’d much rather try to get things done than throw stones, and the people at Tyson know how to move the needle.”
Unfortunately for Tyson shareholders, the company didn’t make it to the ball, selling its shares in April for an undisclosed amount, after Tyson CEO Noel White decided the company would create its own plant-based protein line.
Tyson’s brand is called Raised & Rooted.
It will compete with Beyond Meat. However, while its chicken nugget product will be meatless, its burger will contain Angus beef as well as pea protein isolate.
According to TSN’s chief marketing officer, “While most Americans still choose meat as their primary source of protein, interest in plant and blended proteins is growing significantly”.
The fact is, 70% of the people who eat Beyond Meat burgers are meat-eaters. Sustainable foods are the wave of the future.
When most people think of Kellogg (NYSE:K), the first thing that likely comes to mind is cereal: Special K, Frosted Flakes, Mini-Wheats, etc. However, it has owned a vegetarian food brand called MorningStar Farms since acquiring the business in 1999.
The company sells over 90 million pounds of faux meat (burgers, chicken, sausage, etc.) every year, with a third from fake burgers and the remaining two-thirds from its other products. Estimates suggest that MorningStar generates $450 million in annual revenue, about double the amount Beyond Meat sells in a year.
Beyond Meat is valued at 64 times sales. If MorningStar Farms were given the same valuation, it would be worth $29 billion to Kellogg, about 50% more than the company’s current market cap.
It is clear that Kellogg is aware of MorningStar Farm’s potential
“When we [Kellogg] have spoken to people, we’ve seen that the desire to eat plant-based alternatives has increased in the last four years by 45%, and 53% of the Canadians we speak to are already eating meat alternatives,” Kellogg Canada’s VP of Marketing Christine Jakovcic recently stated.
The big question is whether its management is smart enough to take advantage of the popularity of meatless products.
Prognosticators of all types came out of the woodwork predicting the many changes Jeff Bezos would implement at the healthy foods grocery-store chain.
One of the more sensible changes is expanding Whole Foods’ delivery network. Whole Foods now provides two-hour delivery in 90 cities across the U.S.
Not surprisingly, the predicted drop in prices at Whole Foods, has yet to materialize.
“While deeper promotional pricing on key items, incremental savings … and increased convenience for Prime Members in the first year under Amazon ownership have caught our eye as consumers, the reality is that Whole Foods pricing on a broad basket has remained largely unchanged,” stated a report from Gordon Haskett Research Advisors.
According to the report, $400 spent on a basket of food at Whole Foods in October 2017, now costs $398.50, producing a whopping $1.50 in savings.
If you’re an Amazon investor, this is excellent news because the money to pay for a $15 minimum wage has to come from somewhere.
Con Agra (CAG)
In my previous article about the move to plant-based foods, I discussed Hain Celestial (NASDAQ:HAIN), one of the earliest adopters of meatless and vegan alternatives.
One of its companies is Yves Veggie Cuisine, founded by Canadian food entrepreneur Yves Potvin in 1985. Potvin used $5,000 of his own money, $10,000 from family and $25,000 in small-business loans to get it up-and-running. Potvin sold Yves to Hain in 2001.
Potvin’s next move was to create Gardein in 2003, a maker of meatless alternatives, including veggie burgers and chicken sliders, the founder’s favorite Gardein product. Potvin sold Gardein in 2014 to Pinnacle Foods, now a subsidiary of ConAgra Brands (NYSE:CAG), for $154 million.
ConAgra likely acquired Pinnacle Foods, in part, to take advantage of the flexitarian movement.
”That means the opportunity here could be in the range of $30 billion just in the U.S.,” CEO Sean Connolly said recently. “And you know, there’s even more opportunity internationally.”
If you are a CAG shareholder, Gardein is a big reason to hang on to your stock.
Restaurant Brands International (QSR)
While most investors in the U.S. are familiar with Restaurant Brands International (NYSE:QSR) because of its Burger King restaurants, up here in Canada, where I live, Tim Hortons is an iconic name that RBI is trying to grow with Canadians and coffee lovers in other parts of the world, including the U.S.
To compete with other fast-casual names, Tim Hortons has introduced and continues to test plant-based alternatives.
In the past month, Tim Hortons has launched a Beyond Meat burger in Canada, Beyond Meat vegetarian sausage patties, and is experimenting with plant-based eggs. Early indications suggest the plant-based eggs, which are made by San Francisco food company Just, are getting rave reviews.
According to a Just spokesperson, “Canada is one of the most requested markets for JUST and we’re excited to be able to offer our product at select Tim Hortons locations for this market test.”
I haven’t been a fan of QSR stock — it has a lot of debt — but if it continues to innovate in this growing area of the restaurant and food industries, I might just have to change my tune.
In the previous slide, I discussed some of the initiatives Restaurant Brands International were doing for its Tim Hortons brand in Canada. I mentioned that the company also owns Burger King.
Impossible Foods make the Impossible Whopper, the same people behind the plant-based burger that’s available at all Wahlburger locations across the U.S. Burger King first tested the Impossible Whopper in 59 stores in the St. Louis area. The stores that sold this burger saw foot traffic increase by a whopping 18.5%.
However, because the burger contains soy leghemoglobin, it isn’t considered to be vegan.
In May, Impossible Foods raised $300 million to bring its total funds raised to $750 million since its inception in 2011. Although the company is expected to go public at some point in 2020, it’s not in a rush to do an IPO.
Like Beyond Meat, it has a who’s who list of investors, including Serena Williams, Bill Gates, Jay-Z and many others.
The latest fundraise valued Impossible Foods at $2 billion.
At the time of this writing, Will Ashworth did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.