Beyond Meat tops US IPO season with 163 per cent surge after listing

The vegan beef and sausage maker saw valuation rise to $3.8bn following floatation

Ethan Brown, founder and chief executive officer of Beyond Meat Inc., center, stands for a photograph with guests during the company's initial public offering (IPO) at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York, U.S., on Thursday, May 2, 2019. Beyond Meat Inc. more than doubled in its trading debut after raising $241 million in an upsized initial public offering that priced at the top of the marketed range. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg
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Beyond Meat piled on the market value, serving up the year’s best first day for a US initial public offering.

The maker of vegan beef and sausage substitutes soared, rising as much as 192 per cent from its IPO price of $25 per share. The shares, which opened at $46, closed their first day of trading Thursday up 163 per cent to $65.75 in New York, giving the company a market value of about $3.8 billion.

The first-day pop eclipsed the 81 per cent gain by Silk Road Medical in its US debut last month and was the best for a US listing raising at least $200 million since before the 2008 financial crisis. Globally, Beyond Meat bested the debuts this year of all but a handful of small listings, none of them larger than $22m.

Beyond Meat raised $241m from the sale of 9.63 million shares on Wednesday, after increasing its marketing range for them to $23 to $25.

The company’s business and Hollywood celebrity backers, including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and actor Leonardo DiCaprio, helped explain the investor zeal, along with a growing consumer appetite for meat alternatives.

Investor and actress Jessica Chastain, who is a vegan, said she cooks Beyond Meat products at home, to the approval of her non-vegan husband and friends.

“I love any plant-based product,” Ms Chastain said in an interview at the Nasdaq exchange. She said she invested in Beyond Meat after being on set in Toronto and being unable to find a Beyond Burger at an A&W restaurant. “I tried for four months in Canada to get one and it sold out everywhere,” she said.

Chief executive Ethan Brown doesn’t expect a conflict between making environmentally based decisions and those that serve shareholders.

“Consumers are looking for products that enable them to be healthier and reduce their footprint,” he said in an interview. “Every time we’re making a sale we’re furthering our mission and increasing sales.”

One food-industry consultant said investors are taking a lot on faith with money-losing Beyond Meat.

The company’s valuation in its IPO is “entirely reasonable if it’s got internationalizable potential and a great product, and has capacity to make money in its core profit structure,” said Robert Lawson, chief executive officer of London-based Food Strategy Associates. “But it’s not clear that Beyond Meat is that.”

The company will need to expand its product range to succeed outside the US, where burgers aren’t as popular, Mr Lawson added.

Consumers are looking for more plant-based meat alternatives because of concerns about health, animal welfare and the environment. Startups like Beyond Meat are tapping into that demand by offering beef-like versions of the veggie burger and other meat products.

Supermarket sales of meat alternatives surged 19.2 per cent to $878 million for the year ended January 5, according to data from Nielsen. The field is crowded, with Silicon Valley-based Impossible Foods also placing its meatless burgers in thousands of restaurants, including all Burger King locations. Nestle makes a plant-based Incredible Burger, which is available in McDonald’s German locations.

Beyond Meat is sold in grocery stores nationwide and is also increasingly being featured on restaurant menus, including TGI Fridays and Carl’s Jr and now under a new deal with Del Taco Restaurants. Its burger patties, with no cholesterol and 5 grams of saturated fat, are made of pea protein and beet juice, which makes them “bleed” when cooked. That compares with 80 milligrams of cholesterol and 9 grams of saturated fat for a 4-ounce patty of 80 percent lean beef.

And despite the company’s mission, Mr Brown said the company will choose the customer over the planet when necessary.

“Our packaging is not great,” he said, referring to the plastic wrap. “That runs counter to what I believe in in terms of ability to recycle things and the overall footprint of that packaging, but we care about the quality of the product. So we will make trade-offs that make sense for the product and market instead of the most environmental path.”

Beyond Meat shrank its 2018 loss, while its revenue more than doubled for the second year in a row, according to its filings. Last year, it lost $29.9m on revenue of $87.9m compared with a 2017 loss of $30.4m on revenue of $32.6m.

The company had significant shortages in 2017 and 2018 and has since made significant investments to keep up with demand, Mr Brown said.

“Now it’s about sequencing customers," he said. Quick-service restaurants have thousands of locations, so supplying them requires a huge jump in output. To keep up, Mr Brown said, the company has been staggering rollouts.

Mr Brown said he wants to eventually lower the price of the company’s products, which currently can cost twice as much as standard ground beef. Beyond Meat wants to sell its products for less than animal protein in the next five years, he said.

Beyond Meat’s investors include former McDonald’s chief executive Don Thompson and venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which owns 16 per cent of the company, and Twitter co-founder Ev Williams’s Obvious Ventures with 9 per cent, according to its filings.

Its backers had included Tyson Foods, the largest US meat producer. Tyson sold its 6.5 per cent stake in Beyond Meat, according to a statement in April. Tyson’s shares were sold both to insiders and new shareholders, Mr Brown said.

The offering was led by Goldman Sachs Group, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Credit Suisse Group. Beyond Meat trades on the Nasdaq Global Market under the symbol BYND.