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05/07/19

Past Issues

The business of fitness and wellness.

Mainstream “Meat”

 

Thanks in part to Beyond Meat’s better-than-expected IPO, there’s never been more buzz around fake meat. If you follow the space, momentum has been building for a few years. But now, something feels different. Did fake meat just cross over into the mainstream? 

Whether it’s health concerns associated with eating meat or the environmental impact of animal agriculture, more people are choosing to reduce meat consumption. At the same time, a number of startups—including Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, and JUST, to name a few—are working on plant- and cell-based protein alternatives. With backing from A-list investors, R&D ramped up and the taste of this so-called “meat” improved while the cost of production came down. Then, in a breakthrough marketing move, these companies decided against using words like vegan or vegetarian. Instead, the term and lifestyle “plant-based” has replaced veganism as a less-polarizing, truly disruptive force remaking the future of food.

"We believe that consumer awareness of the perceived negative health, environmental and animal-welfare impacts of animal-based meat consumption has resulted in a surge in demand for viable plant-based protein alternatives." 
– Beyond Meat IPO prospectus

The result? So far, so good. Restaurant chains including Del Taco, Carl’s Jr., and T.G.I. Friday’s offer Beyond Meat’s products, as do grocery stores like Whole Foods, Kroger, and Target. Meanwhile, after a successful pilot, Burger King announced that Impossible’s meatless patty would be available at 7,200 locations nationwide by the end of this year.

This news follows reports that restaurants are scrambling to keep up with demand for the Impossible Burger, with the company warning, “we may not be able to meet the requested quantities amongst some of our valued partners in the short term.” 

With consumer demand trending in the right direction, and momentum at its back, Beyond Meat (trading as BYND) took center stage at the Nasdaq on Thursday, May 2. 

On paper, their plan for an initial public offering was impressive enough: BYND intended to raise $183.8M at a $1.21B valuation, offering 8.75M shares at $19–$21 per share. But late on Wednesday, interest from investors prompted a revision — the company would sell 9.625M shares at an expected price range of $23–$25 apiece. When trading opened on Thursday, shares of Beyond Meat were going for $46. By day’s end, the stock soared to $65.74, up 163% from the IPO price, valuing the company at about $3.9B. 

Was Beyond’s debut a big deal? Yes. It’s the first plant-based, meat-alternative company to go public. For a time, the news trended on Twitter. Waking up on Friday, almost every outlet had published a story on Beyond Meat. And judging by the headlines, the takeaway is clear: fake meat is having a moment.  But hype at its first closing bell won't carry Beyond Meat to the plant-based promised land.

If you’re searching for potential roadblocks, look no further than the company’s balance sheet. Even though sales grew 170% between 2017 and 2018, from $32.6M to $87.9M, they’ve never made a profit. Losses in 2018 totaled $29.9M compared with a 2017 loss of $30.4M. Of course, multi-million dollar losses are commonplace for category-disrupting startups. The bigger concern reveals itself in Beyond’s S-1 filing: “We have a history of losses, and we may be unable to achieve or sustain profitability.” 

While investors are willing to bet on growth over profits (for now), BYND will still have to confront competition from peers like Impossible Foods, as well as Big Food institutions like Tyson Foods and Nestlé. Speaking of competition, cattle ranchers are preparing for a fight of their own — states are preparing legislation that would make it illegal for companies to use the word “meat” if they’re made from plants or in a lab. Plus, there are concerns that Beyond Meat costs more and isn’t any healthier than the real McCoy.

Despite the challenges that lay ahead, Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown believes his company is capable of replacing animal meat altogether. If he’s wrong, plant-based meat will become a niche product and this IPO will go down as a flash in the pan. But if Brown and Beyond Meat are correct, they may have created the future of protein, upending the $1.4T global meat industry.

Headlines & Happenings

🐾 Direct-to-canine  

Whether it’s adaptogens, CBD, collagen protein, or vitamin packs, the DTC wellness market is becoming increasingly crowded. And, as we predicted in our 2019 Outlook, wellness is infiltrating every aspect of our lives. But now, it’s moving beyond humans. Yes, doggie (and pet) wellness has arrived, and it’s proving to be big business. 

According to the American Pet Products Association, as of 2018, 68% of all US households own a pet. That same year, pet owners in the US spent $72.6B on their pets. Eyeing a large market ripe for disruption, investors and entrepreneurs are making big bets on healthier pet food. 

Between 2012 and 2016, pet startups saw funding jump by 334%, from $67.2M to $291.6M. By June of 2018, investment into the sector had already reached $519.3M. And 2019 has seen more of the same, with DTC dog food dominating the headlines. So far, Pet Plate ($4M in funding), Ollie ($17M), The Farmer’s Dog ($41.9M), and NomNomNow ($13M) are leading the pack. Up-and-comers include UK-based Butternut Box ($28M) and Wild Earth ($4.5M), a vegan pet food company backed by Peter Thiel and Mark Cuban. But healthier food is only the start. Many of these startups bill themselves as “pet wellness” companies, so expect their product line to expand over time. Whether it’s doggie CBD or pet-focused DNA tests, direct-to-consumer pet wellness is just getting started.

🥗 Farm-to-vending machine

Last week, Chicago-based Farmer’s Fridge—a startup selling health-focused eats like salads, sandwiches, and granola via vending machines—rolled out 18 machines across Indianapolis. In all, the company has raised more than $40M in funding while launching some 250 vending machines—or rather, fridges—with the goal of making healthy food more accessible.

With the online food delivery in the US reaching $17.9B in sales for 2018 and vending machines doing $7B in revenue during the same period, a growing number of health-focused food startups are doubling down on convenience. And reaching people at work is shaping up to be ground zero for a startup showdown. 

Byte Foods, a San Francisco-based startup with $16.9M in funding, outfits offices with smart refrigerators full of fresh, healthy food options. Similarly, LeanBox, Fresh Bowl, and 6AM Health are using fridges to offer fresh eats. Going a step further, Oh My Green—who has raised $20M—is a self-described “kitchen concierge”, supplying companies with everything from healthy snacks to fully catered meals. Meanwhile, salad unicorn Sweetgreen has introduced a delivery option called Outpost. With drop-off points in 150 offices and co-working spaces, Sweetgreen is cutting out third-party delivery apps and going all in on convenience.

In addition to using Uber Eats to get Recess in the hands of consumers faster, it’s also a marketing and customer acquisition channel for the beverage brand that’s seeking to differentiate itself from other CBD-infused drinks and wellness elixirs.

❗️ICYMI

Last week, we shared some big news from the Fitt team. Our all-new discovery platform for local fitness studios, healthy restaurants, outdoor adventures, and upcoming events is live on the web and iOS. We also unveiled Fitt For Brands — our custom-built ad network and creative services designed to connect brands to our growing community of health-minded consumers. If you haven’t checked them out, we hope you will!

One last thing on the Fitt front: we’re hiring! More specifically, we’re looking for a Full Stack Developer, Social Media Manager, and local writers on the ground in many of the Fitt cities.

💰 Money Moves

 

KPS Capital Partners will pay $490M to acquire Life Fitness, makers of strength and cardiovascular equipment under the brand names Life Fitness, Hammer Strength, Cybex, Indoor Cycling Group, and SCIFIT.

Crunch Fitness has enlisted Citigroup to explore strategic options that could include a sale, per The Wall Street Journal. Angelo, Gordon & Co. and New Evolution Ventures have backed the gym chain since purchasing it out bankruptcy in 2009. Crunch is expected to bring in $190M in revenue and $27M in EBITDA for 2019.

cure.fit, an Indian health and fitness company vertically integrating digital and offline experiences across fitness, nutrition, and mental well-being, raised $75M, valuing the company at more than $500M. 

From Issue No. 24: “From gyms to healthy food and meditation to primary care clinics, all packaged into one “super app”, cure.fit aspired to build the health equivalent of Apple.” Read more.

SPRiZZi Drink-Co., an eco-friendly beverage system, landed a $100M investment from the government of Rugao, China.

Noom, a mobile wellness company that provides behavior change programs and coaching, raised $58M in round led by Sequoia Capital.

Zenoti, an enterprise cloud platform for the beauty and wellness industry, closed $50M in Series C funding led by Tiger Global Management.

Vital Farms, sellers of eggs from pasture-raised hens, raised $15M in funding.

Cali’flour Foods, a frozen food and snack brand, raised an undisclosed sum in a round led by Sunrise Strategic Partners with participation from CircleUp Growth Partners

Butternut Box, a UK-based direct to consumer pet wellness company, raised €17.4M to develop new products and launch into Europe.

K-Zen Beverages, maker of cannabis-infused drinks, secured $5M in seed funding from DCM.

My Lil’ Healthbot, a AI-powered vending machine stocked with health and personal care products, raised $300K in seed funding.

Hydrant, a powdered hydration mix, was accepted into the Philadelphia 76ers startup incubator, Sixers Innovation Lab. Per Forbes, the team helped Hydrant close $2M in funding.

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