USA, El Segundo, Calif. While its CEO says engaging in an increasingly heated debate over the merits of plant- vs animal-based meat can be a “zero sum” game, Beyond Meat plans to go on the offensive this year with digital and media campaigns that celebrate its ingredients and processes.
Speaking on the firm's QIV earnings call, CEO Ethan Brown referenced a recent wave of "industry-funded" ads from The Center for Consumer Freedom attacking plant-based burgers as 'ultra-processed' products hiding scary unpronounceable ingredients. The Center for Consumer Freedom was founded by Richard Berman, who critics say has perfected the art of setting up nonprofits to advance corporate interests. He is best known for his work – backed by the tobacco industry – to fight bans on smoking in bars and restaurants.
"Because of the confusion that can result from industry funded campaigns targeting plant-based meats, you will see our brand raise the profile of our ingredients and our process. We are proud of both and believe that far from being a liability, our ingredients and our process represent important strengths," said Brown. "ln the coming months, and for the balance of 2020, you will see us tell our story on ingredients and process with content across digital and print media helping consumers have the information they need to make informed purchasing decisions," he said.
The company will join the Partnership for a Healthier America, which is committed to increasing healthy choices in the food supply, and create an "advisory board of leading experts in health and medicine to ensure that we have access to the latest thinking and peer reviewed research on health, nutrition and ingredients."
Beyond Meat posted a 239% increase in net revenues to $297.9 mill. in 2019 and a net loss of –$12.4 mill. (vs –$29.9 mill. in 2018), with margins improving due to volume increases, production efficiencies, and a greater contribution from higher margin fresh products. Net revenues in the retail business rose 185.2% to $144.8 mill., while net revenues in foodservice surged 312% to $153.1 mill. For the full year 2020, Beyond Meat is predicting net revenues in the range of $490-510 mill.
A forecast analyst at Bernstein classified this prediction as conservative, as the company only included confirmed contracts in its forecast while excluding potential opportunities such as partnerships with KFC and McDonald's, and international expansion into China. Regarding Seth Goldman's decision to step down as executive chairman (he'll take a step back from the day-to-day operations of the business, but will remain as chairman of the board), the Bernstein analysts said: "This will likely be perceived negatively by investors, especially given Mr. Goldman's industry experience as the former CEO of Honest Tea."
They added: "From a capacity perspective, Beyond Meat is partnering with a Dutch co-manufacturer in Europe and expects to have production facilities in Asia by year-end, assuming that the coronavirus outbreak does not prove to be a major disruption. We believe that Europe presents an attractive market opportunity for Beyond Meat, especially as its closest competitor Impossible Foods uses genetically engineered ingredients which are banned by many European countries. Meanwhile, the company also finds China an attractive market to take advantage of the protein supply shortage created by the African Swine Fever."