With consumers eating more meals at home and relying on grocery delivery services during the coronavirus pandemic, Beyond Meat is launching an e-commerce site today to sell its plant-based meat products directly to customers. The site will have some online-only items for sale and will serve as a test kitchen of sorts for future products, said chief growth officer Charles Muth.
“It will allow us to have direct conversations with our consumers and will be convenient for consumers who don’t live near a supermarket,” Muth said in an interview with The Verge.
Faux meat products were a hot seller at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, with sales of products like Tofurky and Beyond Meat increasing 264 percent. Sales of fresh meat alternatives rose 206 percent the first week of March and were up 279 percent the week ending March 14th, according to Nielsen.
But it makes sense for Beyond to pursue new channels to sell its products outside of the grocery aisle; while its US grocery sales nearly tripled in the second quarter, the company reported a net loss of $10.2 million. And with many restaurants closed to adhere to social distancing guidelines, Beyond spent about $6 million in the second quarter repackaging products for grocery store sales instead of restaurants. Still, the company passed $100 million in revenue during the second quarter, the first time it’s hit that milestone.
Muth said Beyond has focused its efforts not just on reaching vegetarian and vegan customers, but toward the “flexitarian” who wants to eat less meat, whether for health or environmental reasons. “To target that audience we had to change the approach,” he said; the products have to be “satiating” and mimic the experience of eating animal meat. That differentiation is important, he adds, because the plant-based meat sector has become more robust in such a short period of time. “There’s so much more competition than there was just a few years ago.”
The Good Food Institute, a nonprofit marketing organization, says between 2017 and 2019, sales of plant-based meat grew 38 percent, with the category worth about $939 million.
Beyond Meat’s new site also will allow the company to get better insights from customers, Muth said. “Long term, we’ll use the site to introduce new products,” he said, giving its most dedicated customers a place to try new burgers, sausages, and other faux-meat items and give feedback.
Products ordered from the Beyond site will be packaged in recyclable insulating shipping boxes, via UPS carbon neutral shipping, the company says.
As for launching a new e-commerce site during the current challenging economic climate, Muth said it’s in keeping with the company’s entrepreneurial spirit. “It allows us to be flexible and quick, because we can recognize when the consumer dynamic is changing,” he said. “Any good company wants to find ways to understand what those changes are and what they’ll look like.”