COVID-19

How are plant-based meat companies faring during the pandemic?

Kristin Schwab Jul 27, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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Packages of meat alternatives for sale in a New York market. Most customers are not vegetarians but people who eat less meat for health or environmental reasons. Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

How are plant-based meat companies faring during the pandemic?

Kristin Schwab Jul 27, 2020
Packages of meat alternatives for sale in a New York market. Most customers are not vegetarians but people who eat less meat for health or environmental reasons. Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Beyond Meat will report earnings Monday after the bell, and it’s unclear how things will shake out for the meat-substitute company amid the ups and downs grocery stores and restaurants are dealing with because of COVID-19.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the biggest competition facing meatless meat was, well, meat.

“When consumers started to stock up, they actually gravitated towards more familiar items,” said Dasha Shor, a global food analyst at Mintel.

That’s because the biggest market for companies like Beyond Meat isn’t vegetarians, but meat eaters who Shor calls “flexitarians” — people who eat less meat for health or environmental reasons.

But home cooks got tired of eating the same thing. Then, in April, there was the meat shortage, when some grocers limited purchases and prices went up.

“This was really an opportunity for plant-based meat companies like Beyond Meat to really go out and grab some new customers,” said Arun Sundaram, an analyst at CFRA Research.

Still, things aren’t rosy at restaurants, which make up half of Beyond Meat’s sales. And Sundaram isn’t sure grocery sales will keep growing if the recession continues.

“Obviously, because people are going to be trying out less things if their wallets are pinched,” he said.

Beyond Meat’s Beyond Beef product, for instance, can run around $9 a pound.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What does the unemployment picture look like?

It depends on where you live. The national unemployment rate has fallen from nearly 15% in April down to 8.4% percent last month. That number, however, masks some big differences in how states are recovering from the huge job losses resulting from the pandemic. Nevada, Hawaii, California and New York have unemployment rates ranging from 11% to more than 13%. Unemployment rates in Idaho, Nebraska, South Dakota and Vermont have now fallen below 5%.

Will it work to fine people who refuse to wear a mask?

Travelers in the New York City transit system are subject to $50 fines for not wearing masks. It’s one of many jurisdictions imposing financial penalties: It’s $220 in Singapore, $130 in the United Kingdom and a whopping $400 in Glendale, California. And losses loom larger than gains, behavioral scientists say. So that principle suggests that for policymakers trying to nudge people’s public behavior, it may be better to take away than to give.

How are restaurants recovering?

Nearly 100,000 restaurants are closed either permanently or for the long term — nearly 1 in 6, according to a new survey by the National Restaurant Association. Almost 4.5 million jobs still haven’t come back. Some restaurants have been able to get by on innovation, focusing on delivery, selling meal or cocktail kits, dining outside — though that option that will disappear in northern states as temperatures fall. But however you slice it, one analyst said, the United States will end the year with fewer restaurants than it began with. And it’s the larger chains that are more likely to survive.

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