What happened

Shares of Beyond Meat (NASDAQ:BYND) rose over 36% today, rising to a market cap of more than $7 billion, after the company reported first-quarter 2019 operating results. Investors were eagerly awaiting the latest update on the company's growth trajectory -- and the animal-free protein pioneer certainly delivered.

Beyond Meat grew total revenue 215% thanks to a massive surge from restaurant distribution channels, which helped to drive gross profit 424% higher. The business achieved a gross margin of 25% in Q1. While investors might think that'll be difficult to keep up, management's expectations for the year ahead prove otherwise.

As of 10:19 a.m. EDT, the stock had settled to a 27.7% gain.

An investor tossing cash money into the air.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Management issued full-year 2019 guidance calling for revenue of at least $210 million, representing year-over-year growth of over 140%, and neutral adjusted EBITDA. That's pretty impressive considering Beyond Meat pulled in revenue of only $16.2 million in 2016.

While investors are basking in the glory of epic growth, it's worth mentioning that the animal-free protein developer is now worth more than $7 billion. If the business achieves revenue of $210 million this year, then it will be valued at 33 times sales. That's pretty pricey for a food company.

Consider two high-profile, albeit imperfect, comparisons. Tyson Foods trades at 0.8 times sales, while Whole Foods Market was acquired by Amazon at a multiple of 0.85 times sales. As more animal-free protein products arrive on the market, restaurants will have more leverage when negotiating partnerships, which will likely erode Beyond Meat's margins.

Now what

Beyond Meat is one of the fastest-growing companies on the public markets right now, but investors might want to consider if the business will be able to grow into and earn its premium before animal-free protein competition heats up. Then again, I said that a few billion dollars ago.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.