Beyond Meat vegan food company taps investment banks for IPO

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Beyond Meat has hired investment banks for an initial public offering, people familiar with the matter tell CNBC.

The plant-based food company has tapped J.P Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse to help lead the IPO, said the people, who asked not to be named because the talks are private. It could not be immediately determined what valuation Beyond Meat will seek in its IPO.

Beyond Meat did not respond to multiple requests for comment. J.P. Morgan, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

The IPO will be the first public stock offering for one of the slew of new companies that make vegetarian meat products that also appeal to carnivores. Brands like Impossible Foods and Modern Meadow have taken advantage of the increasing public awareness of the potential health risks and environmental concerns around meat consumption.

Unlike previous vegetarian iterations, they’ve created products that closely mimic the taste and texture of real meat.

The National Institutes of Health published a report in 2012 that said regular red meat consumption could shorten consumers’ lifespan. It suggested that eaters “might help improve their health by substituting other healthy protein sources for some of the red meat they eat.”

Nearly 40 percent of Americans are trying to eat more plant-based foods, according to a Nielsen Homescan survey.

The nearly $30 billion processed meat industry last year grew by 2 percent, while the the $1.4 billion meat alternatives industry grew by 22 percent, according to data service Euromonitor.

The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, however, has taken issue with vegetarian companies calling their products meat. The group filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in February requesting official definitions for the terms “beef” and “meat.”

Beyond Meat has sold 25 million of its “Beyond Burgers” since 2016, according to the company. Restaurants, including TGI Friday’s, sell it on its menu. White Castle sells the Impossible Burger, which Eater magazine called “one of the country’s best fast-food burgers, period” in April.

The Los Angeles-based Beyond Meat was founded in 2009 by CEO Ethan Brown. It sells its products in more than 32,000 grocery stores, restaurants and other outlets across the U.S. Whole Foods, Kroger and Target all sell Beyond Meat items.

It has attracted an array of high-profile investors, including Bill Gates, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack & Suzy Welch, Kleiner Perkins and Tyson Foods, the company said last year.

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