Beyond Meat takes a beating as plant-based sector reports slowing sales

The emerging plant-based meat sector took beating on Thursday, after industry pioneer Beyond Meat missed Wall Street estimates and the owner of another leading brand downgraded its growth expectations for the category.

Beyond Meat’s stock dropped 11 per cent in after-market trading as it reported losses of $ 80.4mn, or $ 1.27 a share, in the last three months of 2021 – more than triple the loss of a year before. Analysts polled by Refinitiv had expected a loss of 77 cents a share.

Quarterly revenue fell 1.3 per cent to $ 100.7mn as the company blamed weak US retail sales due to soft demand, increased discounts, and a loss of market share.

For 2022, Beyond Meat forecast revenues below estimates, predicting total sales of $ 560mn- $ 620mn for 2022 compared with consensus estimates of $ 637mn.

After several years of dramatic growth, sales in the plant-based meat market suddenly slowed last year. In the US, a 46 per cent rise in 2020 was followed by a decline of 0.5 per cent in 2021, according to data provider Spins. In the UK, Kantar numbers show that sales tailed off in the second half of last year, although they experienced a rebound in December.

Ethan Brown, Beyond Meat chief executive, said that while there were questions over whether the company’s growth rate in 2021 was “an aberration or a harbinger of things to come”, he believed it was temporary.

He said the return of consumers being able to sample products, which had declined during the pandemic; further innovation through research and development; and the increase in distribution of products through launches with fast-food chains including McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and KFC, would boost the growth rate in the US. “We feel very good about the year. We feel optimistic, ”Brown said.

Maple Leaf Foods, the Canadian meat group that owns plant-based meat brand Lightlife, said it had completed a review which showed consumers were not making repeat purchases because the products were not meeting their expectations in terms of price, and how processed food is .

After growing 59 per cent in 2019 and 75 per cent in 2020, industry-wide retail sales of refrigerated plant-based meat grew only 1 per cent last year, Maple Leaf said. The company said consumers viewed plant-based meat as an “expensive novelty” leading to high trial rates but low repeat purchases. Maple Leaf forecast the plant-based meat market to grow to $ 6bn- $ 10bn in value by 2030.

“It’s clear that the category can’t be expected to grow at the spectacular rates that we saw in 2019 and 2020. Instead, we expect the category to continue to grow, albeit at a more moderate but still attractive pace of 10 to 15 per. cent, ”said Michael McCain, Maple Leaf’s chief executive.

The company’s plant-based protein business reported a 13 per cent sales decline for 2021, or a 6 per cent fall when excluding the effects of foreign exchange. McCain said Maple Leaf would adjust its “business model of investment matching a revised view of sustainable long-term growth rates”.

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