Investors have a big appetite for fake meat. The shares of Beyond Meat, the purveyor of plant-based burgers and sausages, more than doubled Thursday in its Nasdaq debut. It's the first pure-play maker of vegan "meat" to go public, according to Renaissance Capital, which researches and tracks IPOs. Beyond Meat raised about $240 million selling 9.6 million shares at $25 each. Those shares rose 163% to close at $65.75. The 10-year-old company has attracted celebrity investors like Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and actor Leonardo DiCaprio and buzz for placing its products in burger joints like Carl's Jr. It sells to 30,000 grocery stores, restaurants, and schools in the US, Canada, Italy, the UK, and Israel.
Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown says the IPO timing is right because the company wants to expand overseas. He also wants consumers to be able to buy shares since they have fueled the company's growth. "Still, Beyond Meat has never made an annual profit, losing $30 million last year. It's also facing serious competition from other "new meat" companies like Impossible Foods and traditional players like Tyson Foods Inc. Tyson recently sold a stake in Beyond Meat because it plans to develop its own alternative meat. Brown tells the AP that Beyond Meat's ingredient list—it only uses natural ingredients that haven't been genetically modified and doesn't use soy—sets it apart from competitors. (Burger King is testing a meat-free Whopper.)