Beyond Meat (NASDAQ:BYND), the leading maker of plant-based meat substitutes, is slated to report its fourth-quarter and full-year 2020 results on Thursday, Feb. 25, after the market close. An earnings call is scheduled to follow at 5 p.m. EST.

Investors will probably be approaching the release with more apprehension than usual. Last quarter, the company's revenue and earnings both fell considerably short of Wall Street's consensus estimates. Shares plunged nearly 17% the next day.

Indeed, big stock price moves following quarterly earnings releases are par for the course for Beyond Meat. After it released second-quarter results, its shares dropped nearly 7%, probably due to earnings "only" meeting expectations. Revenue, however, easily surpassed the consensus estimate. And after first-quarter results came out, shares soared 26%, thanks to both revenue and earnings crushing expectations.

After steadily falling during the fourth quarter of 2020, Beyond Meat stock has raced out of the gate in 2021. It's up 40.5% through Feb. 11, compared with the S&P 500's 4.4% return. Shares have gained 603% since the company's May 2019 initial public offering (IPO).  

Two Beyond Meat burgers inside buns along with cheese, greens, and onions.

Image source: Beyond Meat.

Beyond Meat's key quarterly numbers

Here are the year-ago period's results and Wall Street's estimates to use as benchmarks. 

Metric

Q4 2019 Result 

Q4 2020 Wall Street Consensus Estimate Projected Change YOY 
Revenue $98.5 million $104.5 million 6.1%
Adjusted earnings per share (EPS) ($0.01) ($0.12) (1,100%)

Data sources: Beyond Meat and Yahoo! Finance. YOY = year over year.

Management didn't provide Q4 guidance, citing continued uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. As the chart shows, analysts expect tepid Q4 sales growth and anticipate the company's adjusted loss per share will widen considerably relative to the year-ago period. 

These low expectations have a positive side: Beyond Meat should have an easier time beating them. 

For context, in the first, second, and third quarters, the company's revenue soared 141%, surged 69%, and edged up about 3%, respectively. The first two quarters benefited from consumers "freezer-loading" during the early stages of the pandemic, which pulled a significant chunk of retail sales forward. But by Q3, stockpiling had slowed or ceased.

Channel and geographic performance

Here's how the distribution channels and geographic markets performed last quarter:

Geographic Distribution Channel  Q3 2020 Revenue Change (YOY)
U.S. retail  $62.1 million 41%
U.S. food-service  $16.3 million (11%)
U.S. total $78.4 million 25%
International retail  $8.0 million 27%
International food-service  $8.1 million (65%)
International total $16.1 million (46%)
Total revenue $94.4 million 2.7%

Data source: Beyond Meat. *Food-service channel includes restaurants and traditional food-service operations. YOY = year over year.

Last quarter, U.S. results were solid overall, but poor results in the international food-service channel really dragged down the company's overall results.

In Q4, it's a given that the pandemic continued to provide a tailwind to the company's retail business and a headwind to its food-service business. The only questions are the magnitudes of these opposing forces. Investors, of course, are hoping that the former more than compensated for the latter.

New-product sales performance

Investors can probably expect management to comment on the earnings call about the market reception to Beyond Meat's new products. In mid-September, the company launched Beyond Meatballs in the U.S. retail channel. A couple of weeks later, it rolled out a new retail product, Beyond Breakfast Sausage Links.

Guidance for Q1 2021

For the first quarter of 2021, Wall Street is modeling for revenue of $123.3 million, representing growth of 27% year over year. On an adjusted basis, analysts expect Beyond Meat to break even, compared to earnings per share of $0.03 in the year-ago period. 

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.