Beyond Meat: Are We Ready for a Game Change to Save the Earth?
“A reduction in meat consumption is the most powerful single act that you can take to halt the destruction of our environment and preserve our natural resources.”
As the world keeps growing, we face one big problem – the depletion of natural resources. Meat takes a lot more natural reserves to produce, so there came the need to find a more sustainable way to make our food.
And as people were turning left and right, searching for the best solution, one brilliant mind worked on the issue at hand with one purpose – to give people a nutritious, healthy, and tasty substitute for meat.
The idea on which Ethan Brown built Beyond Meat is quite simple – eat what you love while helping the environment, the climate, and yourself. So that is how this plant-based all-types-of-meat company came to be!
If you want to know more about Ethan’s steps to creating a food industry giant, keep reading this story.
Meat the Founder
Ethan grew up on a family’s dairy farm in Western Maryland, surrounded by animals that he loved a lot. Both his parents had different job occupations, which allowed Ethan to broaden his views – his father worked around the farm, raising stock, while his mother was an editor.
His concern about climate change came from an early age. In high school, Ethan decided it was time to change his eating habits, so he turned to vegetarianism and, later on, veganism.
He began his undergraduate education at Connecticut College. But he didn’t want to stop there, so Ethan kept on going to the next step – a Master's degree in Public Policy from the University of Maryland School of Public Policy and a Master of Business Administration from Columbia Business School in 2008.
Right after his studies ended, Ethan began his journey in the business world. Still holding tight to his beliefs, he started his first job in the field of renewable energy. At first, he was an analyst of renewable energies at the National Governors’ Center for Best Practices.
Soon after, he joined a company for hydrogen power – Ballard Power Systems, Inc. Ethan loved working in that space and knew it was the right way to make a personal impact, but he was still not happy with what he was doing.
He felt that he was missing a step, something that would be a revolutionary change from which new generations could benefit. So, Ethan took the big leap – he quit his well-paid job and moved into the unknown.
High Risk, High Reward
In 2009 Ethan visited a research center at the University of Missouri, where he met Fu-hung Hsieh and Harold Huff. At that time, both scientists were working on a technology to replicate meat texture by using plant proteins.
This idea seemed exciting to Ethan, so he started wondering what it could bring the world. He was so passionate about it – especially the technology – that he acquired the license for the process and then founded Beyond Meat.
Ethan spent the next couple of years creating a revolutionary product, using nourishing ingredients from plants with the latest science and technology. Amino acids, proteins, minerals, and other components in traces found in plants, were used to build the same “architecture” as meat and make it available to people.
All the efforts resulted in new products: burgers, ground meat, sausage, and chicken that became an instant hit on the market. In fact, the company’s sales grew to $298 million in just six years.
A Thorny Path
It was not all rainbows and sunshine while Ethan was building Beyond Meat. On his journey, he faced several obstacles. One of his biggest challenges was to keep investing during the Covid pandemic. The overall stock market flunked during that period, so Ethan found it hard to keep the investments inflow going.
Another barrier was the ever present one – is animal protein better than plant protein? Unfortunately, this is something that Ethan is struggling with even today. However, the reality of things is that Beyond Meat has truly stood on its word.
Namely, the production process of its plant-based products has proven to generate 90% less greenhouse gas emissions and require 46% less energy. The impact on water scarcity was more than 99%, and 93% less impact on land use.
Spreading the Word
For Ethan, innovation was not just creating and putting a new innovative product on the marketplace. His role goes far beyond it, as Ethan wanted to help people understand that plant-based meat can be an excellent substitute.
The story of Chris Paul, a Phoenix Suns NBA player, proves that Ethan is steps closer to completing his mission.
Beyond Meat was a true lifestyle change for Chris and his father, rather than just a simple diet. In the beginning, his motive to move on to Beyond Meat was based on performance improvement. But after seeing the progress it made on his overall health, Chris decided to fully switch to their products.
And he’s not the only one! There are countless other satisfied customers around the world. Famous people like Kim Kardashian and Sean Wotherspoon have shown their love for these products and emphasized how good they are for their health and the planet as a whole.
In 2019 when the company reached almost $300 million in sales, Beyond Meat went public and started with a plan to offer 9.5 million shares at $23-$25. The company was listed on the Nasdaq exchange and opened its IPO days in May 2019.
Today, Beyond Meat can be found under the symbol NASDAQ: BYND. The total sum raised at IPO is $241 million, but it holds a valuation of the IPO at $1.5 billion.
This developer of plant-based meat products has reached $465 million in revenue in 2021. Before the IPO, the total funding from 12 funding rounds was around $122 million. The last of these rounds was in April 2019 – a Series G with only 1 investor.
Among over 25 investors are Kleiner Perkins, Collaborative Fund, OurCrowd, Plus Capital, as well as former McDonald’s CEO Don Thomson, Bill Gates, Leonardo DiCaprio, Biz Stone and Evan Williams (Twitter co-founders), and many more.
Beyond Meat to Feed a Better Future
Today, Beyond Meat is one of the leading companies offering meat alternatives. The current headquarters is in El Segundo, California, United States, and there are over 1000 employees.
Ethan Brown has several awards under his belt. In 2014, Ethan was listed on Fast Company's Most Creative People in Business 1000. And the awards kept on coming in the following years. The most recent one was in 2019 when he made Bloomberg Media's 50 Most Influential ranking.
All of these awards show Ethan’s dedication to Beyond Meat and demonstrate that the company is more than just a business. Ethan believes that Beyond Meat is not limited to the vegan market but is a solution for everyone.
The idea he had and still has is simple – create something that you’d love to eat on a daily basis, but something that would be a better way to feed our future. By combining non-GMO ingredients with simple innovation, Ethan is sure that people can help themselves build better and healthier lives, all the while helping the environment.
Although the future is uncertain, one thing is for sure – Beyond Meat will keep making an impact on the food industry and produce alternative products that can outperform the real thing.