Beyond Meat made history as the first plant-based meat maker to go public in 2019. DoorDash became the largest food delivery platform in America that same year, and it went public last December.
Beyond Meat's stock has been volatile since its market debut, but it's still risen 460% from its IPO price and more than doubled from its closing price on the first day. DoorDash's stock jumped 86% from its IPO price on the first trading day, but that gain subsequently faded to less than 50%.
Both could remain volatile as investors rotate out of growth stocks into value stocks amid concerns about rising interest rates. But is one of these new food stocks a better pick for bold investors this year?
How did the pandemic affect these two companies?
The pandemic generated headwinds for Beyond Meat, as restaurant closures reduced its sales to food service customers. However, it largely offset that slowdown by selling more of its products to large retailers, which benefited from a major acceleration in pandemic-induced shopping.
That's why Beyond Meat's revenue rose 37% to $406.8 milion last year. That marked a significant slowdown from its 239% growth in 2019, but analysts expect its revenue to increase 40% in fiscal 2021.
Meanwhile, the pandemic generated powerful tailwinds for DoorDash, as struggling restaurants relied more heavily on third-party delivery services.
As a result, its revenue soared 226% to $2.89 billion in 2020, marking an acceleration from its 204% growth in 2019. However, DoorDash expects its orders to decelerate significantly after the public health crisis abates, and analysts expect its revenue to rise just 28% in 2021.
Based on these forecasts, Beyond Meat and DoorDash trade at 15 times and 13 times this year's sales, respectively. Those price-to-sales ratios aren't low, but the two stocks actually remain cheaper than many other high-growth stocks in this frothy market.
But neither company is profitable yet
Beyond Meat's net loss widened from $12.4 million in 2019 to $52.8 million in 2020, due to higher R&D, sales and marketing, and COVID-19-related expenses.
Its adjusted EBITDA -- which excludes its stock-based compensation, COVID-19 costs, and other one-time expenses -- still declined 53% to $11.8 million. Analysts expect it to remain unprofitable this year.
It could be tough for Beyond Meat to generate stable profits for two reasons. First, it still needs to heavily market its products to gain mainstream attention, retain its retail and dining partners, and widen its moat against competitors like Impossible Foods and Tyson Foods (NYSE:TSN).
Second, Beyond Meat's plant-based meat still costs more than real meat. That gap is gradually narrowing, but it must either match or undercut the price of real meat to gain more mainstream shoppers. A growing number of competitors in the meatless market could further impact its ability to raise its prices.
DoorDash's net loss narrowed from $668 million in 2019 to $461 million in 2020, as its soaring revenue and firm pricing power throughout the crisis boosted its margins. It also posted positive adjusted EBITDA of $189 million in 2020, compared to a loss of $475 million in 2019.
Analysts expect DoorDash to squeeze out a slim adjusted profit this year, but it also faces several pressing issues. DoorDash controls over half of the U.S. food delivery market, but Grubhub (NYSE:GRUB) and Uber (NYSE:UBER) Eats aren't down for the count yet.
Just Eat Takeaway's (OTC:TKAY.Y) upcoming takeover of Grubhub could breathe fresh life into the former market leader, and Uber's takeover of Postmates could have the same effect. As the pandemic passes and restaurants regain the upper hand again, these three platforms will likely resume their aggressive war of margin-crushing promotions.
Tighter regulations for gig platforms like DoorDash, which have already been proposed in several states, could also force the company to raise its wages or classify its Dashers as employees instead of contractors. All those headwinds could prevent DoorDash from generating stable profits.
The winner: Beyond Meat
I'm not a fan of either stock right now, but Beyond Meat is a better overall investment than DoorDash for two reasons: Its revenue growth is more stable and its core market hasn't been saturated yet.
Beyond Meat faces competitors, but there could be ample room for all these plant-based players to grow without trampling each other. That's not the case in America's saturated food delivery market.
Beyond Meat won't generate stable profits anytime soon, but economies of scale could gradually kick in and narrow its losses. These strengths all make it a better buy than DoorDash, which will simply face too many uncertainties in a post-pandemic world.