Plant protein boom is no bubble: investor

Beyond Meat burgers are showing up beyond food service and in the meat case grocery store.  |  Paul Yanko photo

A Regina firm that processes and markets plant-based meat substitutes has seen sales surge to $127 million in revenues

Like many market bubbles, investors are throwing themselves into the plant protein foods industry.

However, a Canadian innovative foods investment fund thinks the plant protein craze isn’t a speculative flurry with little grounding in reality.

“I see it as a standalone, beautiful disruption to big industry that’s good for people and the planet,” said Patrick Morris, chief executive officer of Eat Beyond.

That thinking is behind the company’s recent participation in an equity-raising drive by Regina’s Above Food, which processes and markets plant-based meat substitutes and other products “with a view to a rapidly growing consumer demand for whole food products that participate in improved human health, climate change mitigation, reduced consumption of natural resources and are a benefit to animal welfare.”

Above Foods has seen its sales surge, hitting $127 million in revenues shipping to 300 customers in 35 countries.

That’s a real world success that attracted the interest of Eat Beyond, which is publicly traded.

“We like the brand that Above Food has. Their “field to fork” philosophy is really smart and that engages the end consumers,” said Morris.

“It’s nice to see when a local Canadian company is outperforming a lot of other companies in the world in a short period of time.”

Plant protein companies have arisen in all shapes and sizes, from high-profile Beyond Meat, which just announced a deal with PepsiCo for snack foods, to medium-sized companies like Merit Functional Foods, which is building a plant in Winnipeg, to tiny start-ups and local food-makers, which are expanding into a growing consumer demand.

The business activity around livestock food alternatives is a busy one. Last October Purely Canada announced its merger with Above Food. Above Food is a plant protein food business that develops and distributes plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy, with Above Dairy. It's first brand with a full range of meat substitutes. | File photo

French giant Roquette is building a $600 million pulse protein plant in Portage la Prairie, Man.

Similar to the plant protein boom, the cannabis industry saw an incredible burst of investment and excitement, garnering it worldwide attention. However, that boom ended up with a glutted market, losses among some players and business failures before stabilizing at a smaller size.

Morris thinks plant-based and other innovative foods aren’t as vulnerable to that sort of speculative excess because the underlying market is stronger and established.

“The … difference is that food is much more of a necessity,” said Morris.

Millennials and today’s youth are serious about the environment, health and sustainability, which fits perfectly with the kind of foods that Above Food makes, said Morris.

“It kind of blew our mind at how rapidly this company is growing.”

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