The background of Ethan Brown, CEO of Beyond Meat (BYND: NASDAQ), is the stuff of legends. From hydrogen fuel cells to plant-based meat, Ethan wants to change the world. Now the visionary innovator is doing it one burger at a time.
Growing up, Ethan would visit his father’s hobby dairy farm in western Maryland. This got him thinking about what he was eating, which eventually led to him becoming a vegan.
After leaving school, his vision expanded from animals to the earth. He dedicated himself to fighting climate change.
“It’s really important to tether yourself to something bigger than who you are.”
But do you think he became a climate scientist? No, instead, he got an MBA at Colombia. His vision for saving the planet would be through economics.
His first job was as an energy analyst focused on improvements to the national electricity grid. He then spent eight years working at PEM fuel-cell company Ballard Power Systems.
But one day, Ethan Brown’s veganism caught up with his fight for climate change.
He had an idea on how to have a more significant impact on saving the planet.
“I realized that livestock had a greater contribution to climate than many other things I was working on.”
He bought a vegan restaurant and began importing vegan-meat from Taiwan, but he saw massive room for improvement.
You see, as well as a visionary, Ethan Brown is an innovator. He is also a former burger junkie.
He began thinking and researching how to make vegan-meat better. Every morning he would hop on his treadmill at 5 am and think about solutions.
In 2009, he came across some research from the University of Michigan that showed how to change the texture of soybean to make it fibrous like meat. He used most of his money to buy the license for the research.
In 2009, he quit Ballards and founded Beyond Meat.
By 2011, Ethan was starting to get some traction with high-profile investors like Leonardo Dicaprio, VC firm Kleiner Perkins, and the co-founder of Twitter, “Biz” Stone.
Despite the success, he continues to double-down on innovation. He built a lab called the “Manhattan Beach Project.” He hires and pushes “the best” scientists to continually improve Beyond Meat’s products. He wants to get as close to meat as possible.
“I’m not afraid to spend a lot of money on R&D. “
His vision is enormous. Beyond Meat already sells to over 67,000 restaurants, fast-food outlets, and supermarkets globally. But that is not enough if you want to save the planet.
He has had a trial with McDonald’s in Canada and already sells to A&W, Carl’s Jnr, and Dunkin’ Donuts.
“I don’t want to be a small meat company. I want to be a global meat company. A global protein company.”
So far, Beyond Meats’ growth is matching Ethan’s vision.
Since 2016, revenue has increased by almost 18.5 times to $297.9m in 2019 (chart below).
Beyond’s share price increased 163% on its IPO debut on May 2, 2019, and has increased another 197% since. Much of that increase, 158 percentage points, have occurred this year.
Revenue has decreased from its foodservice segment since the pandemic struck. But grocery sales have increased, up 69% YoY.
After a plateau in July and August, the share price has broken out again with strong growth in September and August. It has broken through the $170 resistance level set in July and Beyond Meat stock will likely go above $200.
The company recently announced that it would develop a new factory near Shanghai.
In the long-term, the stock faces increasing competition. But vegan-meats is a fast-growing segment that is being enjoyed by vegans and non-vegans alike.
Ethan Brown also has his sights set on international markets. He is also looking at increased cost reductions as scale increases.