The world is changing at a rapid pace. There is much more of an emphasis on being environmentally-friendly, with more and more people moving over to plant-based diets. This has led to the explosion in popularity for alternative meats.
The craze around alternative meats
The popularity of plant-based eating is spreading more now than ever. For example, retail sales for plant-based foods in the United States have increased by 11% in the past year. Some people make the switch for health reasons, others do it for environmental reasons, while some people don’t like the harm that is done to animals.
Most restaurants now have options to suit a plant-based palate. Even fast-food outlets such as Burger King Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: BKC) and McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE: MCD) have been moving with the times in this regard.
Two of the leaders in the alternative meats space are Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat Inc. (NASDAQ: BYND). In 2016, Beyond Meat first released its plant-based burger into grocery stores globally. It was in 2017 that another company, Impossible Food has launched its plant-based burgers, mainly focusing on gourmet food locations and fast-food restaurants.
A very successful IPO for Beyond Meat
Beyond Meat had one of the most successful IPOs of the year, with investors looking to get a slice of the projected $35 billion alternative meat market.
After going public at $25 per share, Beyond Meat, at the time of writing, is priced around $76.20 per share. This is extremely impressive growth. However, the stock has retracted somewhat from previously dizzy heights of $239.71 per share and now sits almost 70% below its all-time high.
Beyond Meat has gotten endorsements from major celebrities such as Leonard DiCaprio and Bill Gates and one of its main differentiators from others in the market is the environmental impact the company has. The popular Beyond Meat burger patty needs 93% less space than normal beef burgers and generates 90% less greenhouse gas emissions.
The company remains agile and is always altering its offering to keep up with the latest demands from consumers. Revenues for the company for 2019 are estimated at $275 million. UBS analyst Steven Strycula believes that by 2025, the company’s revenues will hit $1.8 billion. The company will need to gain entry into an additional 120,000 food outlets to hit the $1 billion mark for food service revenue. It also is in talks with McDonald’s, with a potential deal being massive for the share price.
Impossible Foods has yet to go public, with CEO Mark Brown saying that the time is not right yet to do so.
What about lab-grown meat?
Moving on from the alternative meat craze, now there are companies looking to grow meat in a lab. While this may sound like something out of Star Trek, it is now becoming a reality.
While the price of producing a pound of beef in a lab is still pretty expensive, these companies are constantly driving down the costs of doing so. However, in order to grow the cells for this meat, a base of fetal cow blood is still needed. This is the most expensive part of the process.
An Israeli company called Future Meat Technologies believes it can bring down the cost of making a cell-based steak to €20 (about $22) per kilo. If this is combined with plant-based meat, the cost would drop further to €9 (about $10) per kilo. Each of the company’s refrigerator-sized bioreactors can grow as much as half a ton of fat and meat in just two weeks.
However, the likes of Memphis Meats are now looking at animal-free alternatives to this cow blood. This company has in the past been able to grow the likes of beef, duck, and chicken in its bioreactors. The company aims to have its lab-grown meat on the market in 2021.
One company called Ecovative is trying to use mushrooms as a base for growing its lab meat.
A lot of potential impacts
If lab-grown meat takes off, there would be a lot of environmental benefits to be had. Farmers would no longer have to devote a lot of time, space and resources to the inefficient system that is farming protein. Farmers could then reforest and restore the depleted soil, providing more land that can be used for the likes of sustainable farming.
Investors will be keeping a keen eye on the developments in this lab-grown sector. If the idea of lab-grown meat is embraced, it would lead to massive shifts in the agricultural space. Those at the forefront of the lab-grown meat revolution would also stand to benefit handsomely.
One of the main differentiators between the likes of Beyond Meat and the offerings from the lab-grown companies could come down to taste. To date, reports about the taste of lab-grown meat has not been overly appealing.
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