Whether individuals are looking to do their part to save the planet or embrace a healthier lifestyle, plant-based meat substitutes are all the rage. So is Beyond Meat's (BYND 4.52%) stock.
Shares of a pioneer in this new movement, Beyond Meat, are up 213% since the company's IPO in May. Investors lucky enough to get in on the offering are sitting on a pretty nice profit. On the day it went public at an IPO price of $25 the Beyond Meat stock skyrocketed 163%. The stock is now trading at around $78 a share.
But does that meteoric rise in Beyond Meat's share price mean you missed the boat on this millionaire-maker stock? The answer: not by a long shot.
Meeting a market demand
Beyond Meat was formed in 2009 with a mission to create a plant-based protein product that was just as tasty as meat and sausage. By shifting to plant-based foods, the El Segundo, California-based company argues that it can improve human health, have a positive impact on the climate, reduce constraints on natural resources, and improve the welfare of animals.
Beyond Meat spent years perfecting its recipe, coming up with what it considers the ideal mix of taste and nutrients. The products it has created have resonated with consumers, enriching both Beyond Meat and its investors.
That demand isn't going away any time soon, which means Beyond Meat has the opportunity to continue to grow for years to come. Investment bank analysts at UBS peg the addressable market for Beyond Meat at $1.2 trillion. UBS is projecting Beyond Meat's sales will hit $1.8 billion by 2025.
Given that it reported $92 million in revenue for its third quarter, that's a big growth trajectory for the company, which has a market capitalization of $4.9 billion.
Bacon substitute could be a big deal
Beyond Meat isn't resting on its laurels when it comes to developing new plant-based meat products and broadening its reach, which also bodes well for the stock.
Let's start with product development. As it stands, the company already offers plant-based sausage, beef patties, ground beef, and beef crumbles. It's currently working on its "chicken" nuggets and boneless wings it is test marketing at Yum! Brands' KFC restaurants and has plans for a plant-based chicken cutlet. In what could be a market-winning move, Beyond Meat scientists are busy in the lab perfecting the taste of a bacon substitute. In the summer, Beyond Meat Chief Executive Officer Ethan Brown said the flavor is improving, but it's not there yet. If Beyond Meat is able to perfect plant-based bacon before its rivals do, it's another reason the stock may surge.
Expanding the places where people can consume its products is a major part of Beyond Meat's growth strategy, and that has been paying off as well. Its products are already served in national restaurant chains like Denny's, Subway, KFC, McDonald's, and Dunkin' Brands. During the third-quarter earnings call, CEO Brown said he thinks a test with McDonald's will morph into an ongoing relationship.
Competitors are circling, but Beyond Meat is undeterred
A big knock on Beyond Meat has been the competition it's facing. Critics argue that rivals will erode its lead and pressure its gross margins. It does have a formidable competitor in Impossible Foods, its Redwood City, California-based rival. Impossible Foods is still private, raising $300 million in its latest funding round in May. Earlier in the year, Impossible Foods inked a deal with Restaurant Brands International's Burger King in which the fast-food chain sells the Impossible Whopper, and in September, its plant-based burgers started selling in grocery stores.
But Impossible Foods isn't the only competitor. Kroger, the grocery store chain, recently revealed plans to roll out 58 plant-based items in 2020. Smithfield Foods and Maple Leaf Foods also have lines of plant-based burgers and sausages under their own brands. Tyson's Foods has already launched a plant-based meat substitute this past summer and has more in development. Other companies' products are expected to launch in 2020 as competitors try to ride the trend.
Still, Beyond Meat has something they don't have: first-mover advantage. It's also not naive. The company is aware that it won't be operating in a two-player market forever. It has been gearing up for that competition, said Brown, noting on the recent earnings call it won't be caught off guard like retailers who were crushed by Amazon. "They're going to have to wrestle this from our hands," Brown said on the call.
International expansion on the horizon
To prevent its business from getting killed by the competition, Beyond Meat is setting its sights internationally, particularly in China, which is expected to be a huge market for plant-based meat.
The company's executive chairman, Seth Goldman, said in an interview that it expects to have production in Asia up and running by the end of 2020. It's committed to producing in Europe by the first quarter of 2020, but China will take longer because everything has to be developed from the ground up. If Beyond Meat is able to succeed outside the U.S., that could boost its first-mover advantage and secure foreign markets before competitors have even established themselves in the U.S.
Room to grow
There's no question that shares of Beyond Meat have been on an incredible run and that the company is overvalued in the eyes of some investors. After all the stock is up 213% since going public, even though it's addressing a market that some suggest has limited potential. Not to mention its products are more expensive than the beef products they are looking to replace. It's not clear if consumers will be willing to pay more over the long haul and that it will have enough sales to support its current stock price.
But if you believe the market for plant-based meat is going to continue expanding and that Beyond Meat can maintain an edge, it's absolutely not too late to get in on this millionaire-maker stock. With bears calling it overpriced and with investors expecting a perfect performance out of the company, any sell-off could be a buying opportunity. Sure the stock is volatile (as most companies that have only traded publicly for about six months will be), and it requires some resolve on the part of investors. But if you are looking to invest in a company that's trying to transform the way we eat and save the planet, Beyond Meat is a solid option.