Beyond Meat is a Los Angeles-based producer of plant-based meat substitutes founded in 2009 by Ethan Brown. The company's initial products were launched in the United States in 2012. The company has products designed to emulate chicken, beef, and pork sausage.
The company was founded as a California-based startup called Savage River Inc. by Ethan Brown in 2009. Brown initially contacted two University of Missouri professors, Fu-hung Hsieh and Harold Huff, who had already been refining their meatless protein for years. The duo spent nearly a decade in the University lab working different temperatures and pressures to get their mixture of soybean and pea proteins “as close to the look and feel of real chicken as possible.” It took them another five years to come up with a recipe for Beyond Meat’s first product, “Chicken-Free Strips,” which the company released to limited locations in 2012. The company has received venture funding from GreatPoint Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Obvious Corporation, Bill Gates, Biz Stone, the Humane Society and Tyson Foods. The company began selling its plant-based chicken products in Whole Foods supermarkets across the US in April 2013. In 2014, it developed a simulated beef product. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals named Beyond Meat as its company of the year for 2013. In 2014 Beyond Meat expanded its presence from 1,500 to 6,000 stores across the US.
The company's first product launched in 2012 was designed to emulate chicken and sold frozen. The product was licensed from Harold Huff and Fu-Hung Hsieh at the University of Missouri. They were made from "soy powder, gluten-free flour, carrot fiber and other ingredients" which were mixed and fed into a food extrusion machine that cooks the mixture while forcing it through a specially designed mechanism that uses steam, pressure, and cold water to form the product's chicken-like texture. The product was praised by some celebrities, but journalists who tasted it said the "likeness to real chicken was tolerable, at best" and it was discontinued in 2019.
The company announced in 2014 that it had begun development of a new product to emulate beef burgers, which was released in February 2015.
Tyson Foods purchased a 5% stake in Beyond Meat in October 2016. It sold its 6.5% stake and exited the investment in April 2019, ahead of the company's initial public offering.
In December 2017, the company announced a vegan alternative to pork sausage called "Beyond Sausage". The three varieties of "sausage" were called Bratwurst, Hot Italian, and Sweet Italian.
In June 2018, Beyond Meat opened its second production facility in Columbia, Missouri, resulting in a three-fold increase of the company's manufacturing space. The company claimed to have 27,000 different points of distribution for their products in the United States and was rolling out their products to fifty international markets, partnering with Tesco in the UK and Tim Hortons and A&W in Canada. The same month, they opened a 26,000-square foot R&D lab in El Segundo, California housing nearly 100 employees.
In September 2018, Beyond Meat received a Champions of the Earth award from the United Nations. This sought to recognize the company’s sustainability efforts beyond the product such as swapping plastic packaging trays to compostable tray for use in their Beyond Sausage.
In March 2019, a civil suit was filed against Beyond Meat by its former business partner, Don Lee Farms, Beyond Meat's products after Beyond Meat switched to using different suppliers and shared details of the manufacturing process with them. Don Lee Farms alleged breach of contract, and further alleged that they had expressed "significant concerns" about food safety protocols at Beyond Meat's facility.
In July 2019, Dunkin' Donuts announced that they would begin selling breakfast sandwiches using the Meatless Sausage product in Manhattan, with plans for national distribution beginning on November 6, 2019. As of July 2019, Beyond Meat had a market value of US$11.7 billion, following a value of $3.8 billion on the day of its initial public offering, May 2, 2019. Beyond Meat trades on the United States NASDAQ exchange under the symbol BYND.
In 2020, Beyond Meat launched an e-commerce site to sell products directly to consumers. It is announced that the company will open a production facility in Shanghai.
In November 2020, Beyond Meat announced a collaboration with McDonald with the development of the McPlant option, a plant-based patty and chicken substitute formulation. Also in November 2020, Beyond Meat announced the launch, in China, of a plant-based version of minced pork.
In November 2020, Beyond Meat announced sales had only grown by 2% year-on-year compared to an expected increase of 40%. The poor results were blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic reducing foodservice sales.