Beyond Meatís Delayed Chicken Launch Raises Growth Questions

The alt-meat darling continues to over-promise and under-deliver, though defenders still back CEO Ethan Brownís vision


By Deena Shanker, Bloomberg

November 17, 2021


This was supposed to be the year of the fake chicken.


The alt-meat wars began in earnest in 2016, when Impossible Foods Inc.ís burger landed in Momofuku Nishi in New York City and Beyond Meat Inc.ís burger hit dozens of Whole Foods meat departments a few months later. Impossible beat Beyond to a national fast-food launch, but Beyond beat Impossible to supermarket domination. As the two were battling it out, established manufacturers as well as a handful of new entrants jumped into the raceóand beat both front runners to vegan chicken.


Kellogg Co., Conagra Brands Inc. and Maple Leaf Foods Inc. all released multiple chicken products before Beyond or Impossible launched a single one. By late April, Beyond was telling customers that its chicken would arrive this summer. But the eventual July 8 rollout was substantially smaller than previous Beyond launches and was limited to restaurants; supermarkets, where the bulk of the companyís U.S. sales are happening, would have to wait. (It did, however, manage to beat Impossible, which began rolling out its nuggets in early September.)


When Beyond Meat went public in May 2019, it held the most successful initial public offering since the 2008 financial crisis, catapulting the company, and the entire plant-based meat category, into investor portfolios. Two and a half years later, the company is still struggling to turn that buzz into products on the shelf, leaving Wall Street disappointed and some customers empty-handed as the competition closes in.


The relatively small chicken rollout is just one of a series of instances in which the company has been unable to satiate demand for its products. Insiders and onlookers alike lay substantial blame at the feet of founder and Chief Executive Officer Ethan Brown. He is frequently described as a visionary by both his supporters and his detractors, but some of those who have worked closely with him also say that he isnít an effective manager of the day-to-day operations of a public company. In reporting this story, Bloomberg News had conversations with five former employees, all of whom left the company in the past year and asked not to be named discussing private company information. Unless otherwise noted, every description of internal business, conversations and culture at Beyond Meat in this story has been corroborated by at least three of these people, who were directly involved in the matters discussed...


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