By now, most people are aware of the stunning rise of Tyson Food's Beyond Meat (BYND -6.37%) IPO. The stock had an initial IPO price of $25 in early May but skyrocketed 700% to a record $201 .88 intraday on June 18. And while Beyond Meat might currently be attracting all the attention, there is plenty of room in the meatless market for a competitor to get swept up in the excitement. Case in point, the Kellogg's-owned MorningStar Farms brand.
A world gone mad for meatless
The demand for plant-based meat is growing globally. A report released in September 2018 based on 12 months of data the Plant Based Food Association commissioned from Nielsen, a leading retail data company, showed that sales of plant-based meat in the U.S. outpaced growth of regular meat by 20%. Plant-based meat grew by 23% while meat itself grew only 2%. Impressively, Beyond Meat's sales grew by 70% during the same period. According to Barclays analysts, the global alternative meat market could grow to $140 billion globally in the next 10 years.
The second largest market for plant-based meat is the U.K., and that market could be poised for a boom. According to Kantar Worldpanel, veganism is rapidly increasing in popularity. Supermarket sales show that the British public consumed over 200 million more meat-free dinners in 2018 than in 2017, and two-thirds of consumers are buying "free from" products. In other euro countries, demand is also soaring. In France, vegan product sales increased by almost 25%.
Now, consider the political scene in the United Kingdom where a trade deal between the UK and the US is looking more and more likely, and there is a recipe for a meat-free revolution.
Trump and Johnson ruin the U.K.'s appetite for meat
Boris Johnson, a strong Brexiteer and Trump ally, has taken up residence in 10 Downing Street, and negotiations with the Trump administration for a U.S.-U.K. trade deal are already under way. A new trade deal would allow U.S. food companies to flood the U.K. market with much cheaper products than the WTO-tariff laden offerings that the country would otherwise be forced to accept.
While cheaper food sounds like a good deal, it comes at a price, and not in the form of pounds sterling. Many Brits are skeptical to see an influx of chlorine-washed chicken or beef that contains hormones -- practices that are acceptable in the U.S. but banned in the E.U.
The meatless movement
What is the British public to do if they want to avoid such cheap (or potentially harmful) products? Many will likely eat less meat and more meat alternatives. As if in anticipation, the tide is already turning in the U.K. toward less meat. In London, the popular salad and sandwich chain Pret a Manger is considering vegetarian-only locations while co-working company WeWork said it will no longer reimburse its 6,000 global employees for meals that contain meat.
If Johnson and Trump have their way and meat standards are lowered, Kellogg (K 0.89%) stands to profit in two ways. First, the company will naturally benefit from better trade between the U.K. and the U.S., but Kellogg can also respond to growing British demand for less meat through its MorningStar Farms brand.
Kellogg is already showing signs of newfound strength. After a long period of flat performance, Kellogg's Q2 earnings showed revenues of $3.46 billion, which matched analyst expectations, but earnings per share have outperformed analyst expectations for the last five quarters with the exception of the start of 2018. There has been greater demand for the company's products , and it has now expanded its product line in vegan foods . The company reported that consumption of its Morningstar Farms' products accelerated in 2018 and that the brand's product line will soon be 100% vegan and will no longer include egg whites and dairy products.
Kellogg finally finds the right track
Better late than never, Kellogg is seeing global food trends and responding appropriately. MorningStar Farms have announced that they will switch to completely plant-based and vegan products by 2021. In the meantime, Kellogg is not wasting any time and is already responding to U.K. demand with new vegan chicken alternatives that previously contained eggs and milk.
The company has announced an investment phase for early 2019, which will focus on natural foods and digestive health. In addition, the company also announced in July that it will divest some of its less healthy food products such as its Keebler cookie brand and fruit snacks. The company is finally getting the message that sugary cereals are not what everybody in the U.K. and the U.S. wants for breakfast, lunch, and dinner .
Looking at the previous year, operating profit at Kellogg North America increased to $1.7 billion in 2018 from $1.4 billion in fiscal 2017. Net sales grew to $13.55 billion from $12.85 billion. While these aren't meteoric improvements, watch Kellogg stock in the future. Thanks to British politics, reinvestment, and a changing product range, the company could show healthy earnings over the next few years. A potential IPO for its MorningStar Farms brand could drum up even more excitement.