Consumer Products

COVID-19 Uncertainty Causes Beyond Meat Stock to Wobble

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a journey of ups and downs for Beyond Meat Inc. (NASDAQ: BYND) and the way forward is likely to continue to be varied.

Amid the coronavirus lockdown across the country, Beyond Meat’s stock price dropped to $54.02 in March, a precipitous fall for a stock that had flirted with $240 a share less than a year earlier. But its price is trending upward again, closing at $130.82 on Monday. In trading Tuesday afternoon, it was up over 10%.

The plant-based food company lost sales to restaurants and food services as Americans followed stay-at-home orders, but it is gaining grocery store sales as meat producers have encountered problems at their processing plants.

Looking to Increase Market Share

Beyond Meat said last week that it hopes to gain a larger share of the market as prices for beef rise because of production disruptions related to COVID-19. The company said it would offer large value packs and discounts to some retailers this summer.

Prices for beef shipped to wholesale buyers have climbed to record highs as the coronavirus reduces production. Beyond Meat’s plant-based meat has typically sold for much more than beef. In the first quarter, prices of Beyond Meat’s ground beef and beef patty alternatives were reported to be about double or triple the price of traditional ground beef.

Coronavirus outbreaks forced the closure of meat-processing plants and slaughterhouses operated by Tyson Foods (NYSE: TSN), Smithfield Foods Inc., Cargill Inc. and JBS USA. Because of the shutdowns, some farmers resorted to euthanizing animals that would normally have been slaughtered for human consumption.

“The food supply chain is breaking,” Tyson Foods Chairman John Tyson said.

On April 28, President Donald Trump ordered processing plants to remain open to maintain meat production.

The problems with meat processing may have encouraged more consumers to try alternative products.

Strong First-Quarter Results

While Beyond Meat reported first-quarter results that were better than expected, with revenue up 141% year over year, the company acknowledges that both challenges and opportunities lie ahead.

Last week, the company reported net income of $1.8 million, or 3 cents per share, compared with a net loss of $6.6 million, or 95 cents per share, a year ago.

“We began the year with strong momentum across our enterprise, followed by a meaningful slowdown in our food service business during the latter half of March as various regions around the world implemented stay-at-home orders,” President and Chief Executive Ethan Brown said in a call with analysts after release of the earnings report.

“Although we did see a simultaneous boost in sales to retail customers, this was not enough to offset deterioration of demand in our food service business,” Brown said. “Nevertheless, we believe our dual-pronged approach of aggressively expanding availability of Beyond Meat products in both retail and food service outlets served us well and helped to mitigate even more significant COVID-19 related disruptions to our revenues.”

Because of uncertainty regarding sales of meat substitutes to restaurants and food services, the company has withdrawn its earnings forecast for the year. It joins many companies in the food and beverage industry that have pulled back guidance.

“I want to be as clear as possible with respect to our view on the impact of the current pandemic on our business,” Brown said. “It is having and will continue to have a negative impact in the short term. This impact was largely due to the disruption of normal business operations within the food service sector. We can neither predict when or in what form normalcy will resume for our customers.”

Beyond Meat is also facing competition from other meat alternative companies. Impossible Foods announced last week that it will sell its plant-based burgers in Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) stores in 28 states.