Beyond Meat’s (NASDAQ: BYND) stock rallied today after McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD) announced that it would start testing a plant, lettuce and tomato burger using Beyond Meat patties at 28 restaurants in Canada. After soaring as much as 15% early in the morning, the stock pared some of its gains and was up over 11% in afternoon trade.
As the traditional meat market takes hits for environmental, health and ethical reasons, the plant-based meat market or the alternative meat market is getting significant attention. And Beyond Meat is gaining from this trend. The stock has jumped 127% since its IPO. However, the stock’s rally and high valuation has left analysts skeptical over what the future holds for the company.
A trend or a fad?
The main problem with Beyond Meat is that its growth is based on a trend – a trend of switching to a plant-based diet for any or all of the aforementioned reasons. This trend could very well end up as a fad. In 2018, the size of the global meat category was valued at $1.4 trillion with the US meat category comprising $270 billion.
A report by ATKearney states that the total market for plant-based meat alternative products was around $4.6 billion in 2018, with a growth projection of 20-30% per year for the next several years, depending on region.
These numbers show the difference between the sizes of both product categories and while the growth numbers for plant-based products appear bright now, this need not turn out to be the actual case going forward.
There are several hurdles in the paths of alternative meat products, including their appeal to customers in terms of taste, their successful penetration into various geographic markets and the health and nutrition concerns that surround them.
Several nutritionists continue to point out the disadvantages of a plant-based diet stating that meat and dairy products are essential to avoid deficiencies in calcium, zinc, iron, vitamin B12 as well as essential fatty acids found in seafood. This theory could dissuade meat-eaters from switching their preferences and it could cause a reversal in the plant-based diet trend, hurting Beyond Meat’s prospects.
Beyond Meat faces tough competition both from companies like Impossible Foods as well as food giants like Tyson (NYSE: TSN) and Hormel (NYSE: HRL). Tyson, Hormel and several other large food companies have launched their own plant-based products and are looking to increase their footprint in this space. With their cash and resources, they make formidable opponents to Beyond Meat and its peers.
The problem with Beyond Meat is that it has got all its eggs in one basket and if anything upsets that basket, the company would get hurt badly. Beyond Meat is reliant on only plant-based products while companies like Tyson have a whole range of traditional food products to fall back on if the alternative meat plan goes up in smoke.
Several analysts believe Beyond Meat’s shares are overvalued. In order to justify its current market valuation the company would have to grow its net income by double-digits for several years. This seems a tad far-fetched considering Beyond Meat is yet to achieve profitability. The company reported a loss of $9.4 million in its most recent quarter.
Beyond Meat also faces risks such as inadequate manufacturing capacity or the shortage of raw materials which could hurt its production. The company has only two suppliers for pea protein, the main ingredient in its products. This puts it in a precarious position in terms of its supply chain. The company also has to continuously innovate and make efforts to expand its product portfolio to drive growth which would mean higher expenses.
Beyond Meat faces several risks going into the future and its valuation has been criticized on multiple occasions. Amid the rise of the plant-based meat market and the hurdles the company faces, it remains to be seen whether Beyond Meat is a survivor or a bubble.
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