Meat moves beyond Chinese expansion despite epidemic

Ethan Brown, Founder, President and CEO of Beyond Meat.

Adam Jeffery | Cnbc

As Beyond Meat plans to make a major push into the Chinese market, the company is not letting the coronavirus epidemic slow its expansion.

“When you see an obstacle like Kovid’s, you don’t say you’re not going to do it, you say ‘how am I going to do it?” And work on a solution, “CEO Ethan Brown said in an interview.

Beyond announced on Tuesday that it is building its presence in mainland China with two manufacturing facilities near Shanghai that will run full-scale production early next year. Both Beyond and Impossible Foods have targeted China as a top market for growth, given its vast population and hunger for meat. The manufacturer of Beyond Sausage first launched in mainland China in April through a partnership with Starbucks, loosening the country’s strict lockdown measures.

According to Brown, working with Beyond’s Chinese team during the epidemic required “a lot of zoom, a lot of WhatsApp”. He and other US-based employees may not have been in person, but he was helped by Mickey Pant, former CEO of Yum China, who now serves as Beyond’s senior advisor.

Brown said the company’s research and development team in Shanghai is also working hard to build its products to suit the tastes of Chinese consumers.

“I will work very hard to make sure that we are not exporting American flavor,” he said.

Beyond shares rose 2.75% to close at $ 138.17 on Wednesday. The stock, which has a market value of $ 8.65 billion, has soared 83% so far this year and is up 453%, while its initial public offering is up over a year. But Brown said he does not pay much attention to market reactions.

“This is a big win for us, but I don’t pay as much attention to it as people might think,” he said.