One Negative Story After Another

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This has not been a stellar stretch for meat-substitute company Beyond Meat. Both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are out with stories attempting to explain why the company—which had a wildly successful IPO in 2019—is struggling this year. As in, the stock is down a staggering 83%, and the company has begun layoffs. Bloomberg, meanwhile, came out with a story Monday based on internal documents and photos suggesting the presence of “apparent mold, Listeria and other food-safety issues” at a Pennsylvania plant. The company adamantly denies any safety problems. (And all of this comes after a company exec made police-blotter headlines for allegedly biting somebody’s nose.)


As the Journal and Times explain, some of the company’s problems are out of its control. Inflation, for example, may be making consumers less thrilled about paying more money for plant-based products than they would for meat. Plus, the plant-based niche is now crowded with competitors offering their own products. But, while overall sales for plant-based substitutes are falling—by 8% in the 12 weeks ended Oct. 8—Beyond Meat’s sales are falling even faster (by 12%). What’s more, rival Impossible Burger saw its sales rise 49% in the same span.


The Journal story in particular singles out Beyond Meat’s founder and chief executive, Ethan Brown, for blame. Based on interviews with current and former employees, “Brown has struggled to stick to priorities and manage Beyond’s growth—switching gears frequently in ways that [have] left teams confused and frustrated,” per the Journal. Brown, though, maintains that short-term hitches are expected in such a new industry and that the long-term picture for Beyond Meat remains bright. Still, one big question is whether these problems are specific to the company or “a harbinger of deeper issues in the plant-based meat industry,” per the Times. (Read more Beyond Meat stories.)

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