Despite disappointing Q3 earnings that saw stocks slide yesterday, plant-based protein heavyweight Beyond made a number of noteworthy announcements on its investor call, including a new iteration of the Beyond Burger, expanded distribution, and involvement with McDonald’s recently announced McPlant product line.
Beyond posted earnings below analysts’ expectations, reporting $94.4 million in revenues versus the expected $132.8 million. The company attributed slower sales in retail and foodservice brought on at least in part by the pandemic. However, Beyond CEO Ethan Brown said on the call that it was important “not to interpret this near-term pandemic induced drop in activity as a weakening in our long-term value proposition in this critically important space.”
To that end Beyond made a few announcements on the call around forthcoming products and distribution channels. The biggest of these — or at least the one that grabbed the most headlines — is the company’s involvement with McDonald’s new line of plant-based meat products. Mickey D’s did not mention Beyond in its announcement yesterday. However, when asked about McPlant on its earnings call, Beyond’s Brown said, “Our relationship with McDonald’s is good.” After further confusion, Beyond made the following statement today:
“Beyond Meat and McDonald’s co-created the plant-based patty which will be available as part of their McPlant platform.”
Why McDonald’s left Beyond out of its initial announcement is unclear. Also unclear is whether Beyond will be McDonald’s supplier for plant-based products going forward.
Less mysterious are Beyond’s plans for retail distribution. On this week’s call, the company announced the Beyond Burger will be available at 7,000 CVS locations in the U.S. in 2021. Beyond Meatballs, a newer entrant to the product portfolio, will be available at 5,000 CVS stores next year. The company also just announced a nationwide partnership with Pizza Hut and, overseas, has successfully trialed products at KFC locations in China. Q3 also saw the launch of Beyond’s direct-to-consumer e-commerce site, following a similar move by the company’s chief rival, Impossible.
Finally, Brown said his company will launch “Beyond Burger 3.0” (he did not provide a time frame) and that Beyond wants to make the current version of its burger “obsolete.”
None of this was enough to keep Beyond’s stocks from dropping 8 percent after market close yesterday, though Brown again emphasized the long-term value of his company and mentioned the global opportunity for plant-based meats.
That opportunity is certainly huge. Recent numbers put alternative protein investment so far for 2020 well above $1 billion, with plant-based proteins grabbing the bulk of that sum. Part of this can be attributed to the pandemic. But as FAIRR pointed out when it reported the $1-billion-plus investment figure, the pandemic was just “the straw on the camel’s back.” Our reliance on traditional animal proteins was under scrutiny well before COVID-19, which suggests long-term demand for plant-based proteins even after the pandemic is under control.
Record case numbers suggest that day won’t arrive for a while. In the meantime, Beyond will need to boost its performance across both retail and food service in the coming months to keep a competitive edge in a very crowded plant-based meat market.