Plant-based meat was supposed to save the planet, make people healthier, and liberate enslaved cows, chickens, and pigs everywhere. Instead, after an impressive start, folks have learned some hard truths about the industry and are turning away in droves.
Once consumers began to learn that plant-based meats were still super processed, not nearly as healthy as advertised, and required an enormous amount of machinery to produce hungry consumers largely decided that the old-school options, namely chickens, pigs, and cows, were better tasting and better for you.
The biggest player in the industry, Beyond Meat, recently released its third-quarter numbers, and they taste worse than ersatz ground beef. Net revenue slid, declining 8.7% year-over-year and 26% versus the previous quarter.
It wasn’t all bad news, however, as the company actually achieved free cash flow for the quarter but does not expect that to be the case in the fourth quarter. One analyst at the firm TD Cowen took it a step further and said the firm is in ‘survival mode’ and will “need to tap the financial markets in 2024 to maintain operations.”
Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown said: “We anticipated a modest return to growth in the third quarter of 2023 that did not occur. Though we are encouraged by pockets of growth, particularly in the EU where we saw double digit gains in net revenues on a year-over-year basis, we are disappointed by our overall results as we continue to experience worsening sector-specific and broader consumer headwinds.”
Beyond Meat has cited numerous reasons for its poor performance, including declining foodservice sales and flagging American retail sales, but declined to suggest the possibility that the product just isn’t that good.
In fact, the company chiefly blamed the left’s favorite bugaboo: misinformation. Brown continued: “In our view, the health perception of the category is the most immediate and important variable to address in order to restore growth. We must squarely and forcefully counter the broad misinformation that swirls around our category before we can more effectively use pricing as a tool to bring new users and the mainstream consumer into our category.”
Brown found a fancy way to say that American consumers think plants made to taste and look like meat might be overly processed and pumped full of chemicals because plants don’t actually taste like meat. However, he also doesn’t mention the issues that have faced the company from a quality control standpoint.
Beyond Meat has faced quality complaints after claims that a factory for the company in Pennsylvania was contaminated with Listeria. The company also allegedly found foreign materials like string, metal, wood, and plastic in its products as recently as 2021.
What hasn’t been found in the products is meat, and that might be the problem. The industry might blame misinformation and conspiracy theories perpetrated by “big meat,” but American consumers also aren’t stupid.
Americans couldn’t care less about the alleged environmental benefits the industry touts, and very limited research shows how processed fake meats are. Truth is, there is no substitute for animal-based proteins, and most Americans realize that unless they have a very specific dietary need or moral objection, fake meats are useless.
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