(Reuters) - Shares of vegan burger maker Beyond Meat Inc rose more than 160 percent in their market debut on Thursday, as investors look to cash in on the first publicly listed veggie meat company and the growing popularity of plant-based meat alternatives.
The stock opened at $46, well above its IPO price of $25. Shares surged minutes after starting to trade and were halted due to volatility. They traded up to $72 during the day, before closing at $65.75.
Beyond Meat, which has warned it may never turn a profit, closed with a market capitalisation of around $3.8 billion, based on shares outstanding including underwriters’ option.
Earlier on Tuesday, the company raised the size and price of its offering after increased demand from investors. The IPO raised $240 million.
The money raised from the IPO gives Beyond Meat firepower to compete with other rivals in the increasingly crowded imitation meat market, such as Silicon Valley startup Impossible Foods Inc.
Beyond Meat founder and Chief Executive Ethan Brown told Reuters on Thursday the proceeds would be used to expand marketing efforts, develop new products, establish production centres in Europe and Asia and open additional manufacturing facilities in the United States.
The Los Angeles-based company, which counts actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Microsoft Corp founder Bill Gates among its investors, aims to market its meatless burger patties and other products to meat-loving consumers. It avoids terms such as vegan or vegetarian and instead displays its products in the meat case of supermarkets.
Plant-based substitutes for meat have been gaining popularity as more people shift towards vegan or vegetarian diets, amid growing concerns about health risks from eating meat, animal welfare and the environmental hazards of intensive animal farming.
Beyond Meat creates substitutes for meat by using ingredients that mimic the composition of animal-based meat, mainly employing pea protein that looks and cooks like beef or chicken.
Currently, some 70 percent of the company’s revenues are generated by its flagship Beyond Burger patties. The company also sells imitation sausages and vegan ground beef.
But Beyond Meat said it has struggled with production capacity issues in the face of growing demand, and interruptions in the supply of pea protein, which it currently sources from two producers in Canada and France.
“We’re looking very much at not only expanding the number of pea protein providers but also getting into new types of protein,” Brown said.
Brown said protein blends, including from mung beans, brown rice and sunflower seeds, would not only offer pricing protection and supply chain diversity, but also provide consumers with a variety of plant-based protein options.
But Beyond Meat is not the only company vying for health-conscious consumers.
Tyson Foods Inc, the No.1 U.S. meat processor, owned a 6.5 percent stake in Beyond Meat, but last week said it sold its holding, as it looks to develop its own line of alternative protein products.
Burger King and Impossible Foods last month started selling their vegan burger Impossible Whopper in 59 stores in and around St. Louis, Missouri, with nationwide sales expected by the end of the year.
Beyond Meat began selling its plant-based burger at more than 1,100 U.S. locations of fast-food chain Carl’s Jr in January.
In 2018, some $50 million of Beyond Meat’s revenues came from retail sales, including at Amazon.com Inc’s Whole Foods Market and Kroger Co supermarkets, while some $37 million was generated at restaurants.
Brown said the company planned to expand its network of restaurant and retail partners outside the United States, which currently account for 7 percent of revenues, but declined to provide further details.
In 2018, Beyond Meat’s net loss narrowed marginally to $29.89 million, from $30.38 million a year earlier. Net revenue more than doubled to $87.93 million in the same period.
Reporting by Bharath Manjesh in Bengaluru and Tina Bellon in New York; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Lisa Shumaker