How Beyond Meat developed an 'unassailable health portfolio': CEO

Beyond Meat (BYND) recently launched an updated and expanded selection of its "Crumbles" product line, which has been certified by the American Heart Association's Heart-Check program and the American Diabetes Association's Better Choices for Life program. The new selections are part of the company's efforts to demonstrate its plant-based products' "unassailable" health benefits.

CEO of Beyond Meat Ethan Brown sits down with Yahoo Finance Executive Editor Brian Sozzi to discuss the company's latest health-oriented products and overall market strategy.

The company is pushing against the bad rap plant-based foods developed as "highly processed" products: "What happened is we began to punch a little bit above our weight as we came out of the gate and so there was concern from the incumbent industry around, hey, how do we position this product as something that is unhealthy. And in fact if you look at the way the nutrition community and the medical community has rallied around what we are doing, that's in fact the exact opposite."

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Editor's note: This article was written by Nicholas Jacobino

Video transcript


- Beyond Meat out with its latest product. Let's get right to Beyond Meat Founder and CEO Ethan Brown. Ethan, it's been a while. Welcome back to the Yahoo Finance Airwaves. So your new product is the Beyond Meat Crumbles. So an investor comes across this video or is watching elsewhere, why should they view it as important to the Beyond Meat investment thesis?

ETHAN BROWN: So thank you for having us, appreciate it and it's always a pleasure to be with you. I think the most important thing to take away from this latest renovation is we continue to migrate toward a really unassailable health portfolio. And so with the particular Crumble product, again, you see the American Heart Association, you see the American Diabetes Association coming into the brand, supporting the products with emblems and with certifications.

And for us, that's a very important message to the consumer. If you have any concerns around cardiovascular disease, around high cholesterol, around diabetes, these products can provide a really simple and delicious way to migrate to more of a plant-based diet. And if you're younger and simply want to fuel your body with clean plant-based protein, these, again, are a delicious and convenient way to do that.

So we continue to push the brand into health and wellness space. And for investors, that's important because those markets are enormous. Whether it's young people who are looking to just eat healthier and cleaner diodes or whether it's older people who are looking to reduce the risk factors for cardiovascular disease and other diseases that are so prevalent in our society, it opens up a much larger market for Beyond Meat.

And to put a pin on that, if you think about the number of Americans who have any cardiovascular disease of any kind, it's about half the adult population. So it's a very significant market size that we can go after.

- Do you think plant-based food is still getting a bad rub out there in consumer land?

ETHAN BROWN: Well, I think what happened is we began to punch a little bit of our weight as we came out of the gate. And so there was concern from the incumbent industry around, hey, how do we position this product as something that is unhealthy? And in fact, if you look at the way the nutrition community and the medical community has rallied around what we're doing, that's, in fact, the exact opposite.

And so whether it's Beyond Steak, which is on the front cover of "Time Magazine" in '22 for terrific innovation or you look at our latest renovations of the Beyond IV, Burger and Beef, those are so clean and offer so many health benefits to the consumer, whether it's the avocado oil that we've now put into the Beyond IV platform, or the yellow pea protein with brown rice protein, with fava bean protein. All of these-- red lentil proteins in it. So it's a very clean and healthy product and we're making it unassailable.

Now we have-- on the environment side, we have such a clear story and no one has ever doubted that. Now the time is to really address some of these health issues and position Beyond Meat as a health and wellness company that can help you reach your goals from a nutrition perspective.

- And these products, it's not lost on me, Ethan, you know I've been following your story and the company story for a while, they're coming at a time where the business is simply more streamlined. You've had to make a lot of tough decisions as a leader. How do these new products matched up to a leaner cost base just improve your business overall over the next 18 months?

ETHAN BROWN: So the other measures we're taking on that front have been adjustments in price, right? So these products have premium ingredients in them. They allow us to raise prices, which we haven't done in a very long time. And that should help as we chart our path toward profitability.

And so we're seeing now if you look at the reaction in the market, if you see the response from the nutrition community, from the health community, from consumers around these products, you really begin to see, OK, there's something here. We're going after that consumer that is looking to use diet to help transform their lives and live healthier and longer lives.

- When will these newer products start to hit the market?

ETHAN BROWN: So they're coming out now. We love-- we love seeing the Beyond IV posted everywhere and people are starting to find it in their stores. And they're excited about it. It's a gold pack. And then the Crumble is also rolling out now. And of course, Steak is already out in the market.

So any one of those products, bring home if you have a family member that wants to eat cleaner, they're great for that type of transition. If you have a family member that wants to reduce risk associated with heart disease, diabetes, or cancer, they're terrific for that purpose. Most importantly, they're delicious.

- The messaging is just a lot different, Ethan, to me. What's the uptake from some of your fast food partners? I mean, I think the messaging alone is something that might get them excited to even get more of these products into their locations.

ETHAN BROWN: Yeah. I think the way to think about our positioning with our fast-food partners-- quickly, if you look at McDonald's in Europe or you look at Starbucks in Europe where we really have some exciting programs, the relative health benefits are still very strong, right? Because you're taking out the animal protein that has a lot of the cholesterol and saturated fat issues and replacing it with clean plant-based protein. And so I think it is exciting for them. And I think you'll see more in the US begin to come on as time goes on.

- Food prices have started to come down here in the US. Long overdue. I mean, we're beyond the pandemic and that's a good thing. Do you think that's going to create a new moment for the plant-based movement industry? And I-- and I bring that up because the contention has always been, oh, these products are too much. I'm just going to get some frozen ground beef. I'm going to stick it in my pasta. But if prices for all this stuff is coming down, I mean, it has to benefit you and a lot of your competitors, no?

ETHAN BROWN: Yes. What's happening is as the market and the sector, the plant-based meat sector starts to mature and reach scale, right? You can-- you'll see the supply chain become more efficient. You'll see price start to moderate based on lower cost of goods. But for right now, we have such a commitment to reaching profitability and again, that's over a longer arc, not suggesting it's going to happen right away, that we're very focused on making sure that we're charging what we believe is the right price for these products.

- How is Beyond Meat different, Ethan, today compared to two years ago?

ETHAN BROWN: Sure, I think when we came out of the gate, and this is-- we started the company 15 years ago, the first goal we had was to create products that are indistinguishable from animal protein. And in a lot of dishes, I think many people would say that we've achieved that, right?

And so now the next phase of the business is really around continuing to highlight and renovate toward even healthier ingredients, healthier inputs so the consumer knows that when they're buying Beyond Meat, they're doing something that's beneficial for their body. They're helping put a cleaner source of protein into their body. And they also have the added benefit of doing something great for the environment. That's something we cannot lose sight of.

If you look at the ability to solve the climate change issue by repurposing lands, by using them more efficiently, by taking protein directly from plants versus feeding plants to an animal and then-- and then slaughtering and feeding humans with animals, if you're able to take protein direct from plants, you can free up a lot of land that we can put into service to sequestering carbon and we can actually meet the entire UN requirements by taking those two measures of reducing methane and then allowing lands that we currently have devoted to livestock to reforest and to rewild, taking carbon out of the air and cooling the climate.

So it's a-- when you go to the store and you see Beyond Meat in now it's beautiful gold package with Beyond IV, really, you're buying into an idea. You're buying into an idea that you can help your own body become cleaner and healthier. But you can also help the Earth. And that's the idea that I want people to understand when they look at our packets. It is a food product. It's delicious. But it's also an opportunity to do something for your body that's healing and to do something for the Earth that is healing. And that, to me, I think inspires many consumers to go beyond.

- Well, I'll just leave it on this one, Ethan. To me, this product-- I know it's just a product. It goes out there into the retail end. But this is another sign that your company continues to transform, has learned a lot, and is moving in the right direction. We appreciate you-- appreciate your time as always. Ethan Brown, Founder and CEO of Beyond Meat. Really, thanks so much. We appreciate it.