Ethan Brown is the Elon Musk of meat. He's a believer that there are healthier, better ways of eating than we currently avail ourselves and that, if you had to do it all over again, maybe you would never eat a cow again because it's a silly thing to ingest a cow's fat when you really only want the protein.
Brown's like Tesla's (TSLA) Musk because he's the real deal pioneer. Initially he seems brash, a zealot; some would say he comes in too hot. They both are in your face about their views.
There's a big difference, though. Musk doesn't want to hear anything you have to say. You are a dolt and a chowderhead if you disagree with him. He has no time for you unless you are a complete believer and then he still might have no time for you if he thinks you are stupid. He doesn't suffer anyone gladly.
Ethan's the EXACT opposite. He wants to hear what you have to say. He wants to hear your objections, not to be doctrinaire and dogmatic to the point where be bowls you over but to be better informed about how to produce a superior product. Beyond Meat (BYND) is one gigantic work in progress by his own admission, something I found to be quite compelling when I grabbed a burger and then some with him a week ago at the Bowery Meat Company.
If you listened to last night's call -- and I can always tell bogus critics who weigh in on Twitter without even bothering to hear or read what the man said, I think you will discover why I think the story is worth exploring. Ethan's trying to make the best tasting meatless burger imaginable that has as much of the burger taste without the dead cow stigma, and believe me, for millions it's a real stigma.
I think he's doing a terrific job at creating just that taste. I like the burger, I like the sausage and I like how they are integrated into other meals, like meat lasagna, in a very tasty way.
But here's the thing: taste, by nature, can't be accounted for. When I read the critics of Beyond Meat, and they seem to way outnumber the supporters, I am conscious that many just don't like the taste. Another cohort thinks that it doesn't taste as good as the Impossible Burger. Still another believes that Nestle's (NSRGY) will crush Beyond because of its size and heft. And then one more cohort of critics just says it's plain bad for you. Let's deal with these one at a time.
Taste is subjective. But the sales, which are exploding, indicate that there has to be repeat eaters, so you may not like the taste but others sure do. I happen to like the Impossible Burger very much, but it has GMOs and therefore I think it doesn't jive with a lot of the ethos that drives people to meatless burgers. Nestle's? Here's the taste issue again: I thought the Nestle's burger I ate was inedible, although that bit of oxymoronic criticism doesn't mean much judging by the strong sales Nestle has so far.
I would say there's room for more than Nestle's though, and Beyond Meat is trailblazing a path that may not be so easily followed.
You aren't going to get a pure label, or at least as pure a label as a cow would give you, but Beyond is as close as Ethan can get right now and the fact is that there's an awful lot of sodium here, more than most would like, more than I want for certain. So it's not the healthy burger that tastes better than a hamburger that so many want.
But, again, it comes closer to it than anything else I have had.
Which brings me to the point that is lost in the conversation about Beyond Meat: there's a stock that's got Beyond Meat's name and there's a product in your refrigerator that has Beyond Meat's name. The latter we can fight over. The former has arrived at this lofty position because half of its float is sold short: too many people making a bet against it than the stock can bear. That's why it's a good thing that there will be 3.25 million shares being sold by the company and insiders. The tight supply has distorted the whole affair. You get more stock, you may get a more realistic valuation because, of course this company is not yet worth $13 billion. All I am trying to point out is that while it doesn't belong where it is, it does belong somewhere, something most of the critics just won't seem to accept. They didn't accept it for Elon, either.
Beyond Meat's stock is going lower, but how low? I don't think it will ever be low enough to satisfy the critics. But for me, it's just an issue of trying to find the right level because Ethan's the real deal, and so is the company, just not the stock, at least not yet, anyway.