Impossible Foods CEO's message to BBQing investors: 'We could end up selling the company'

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With industry sales seemingly stale and the stock price of its longtime competitor, Beyond Meat (BYND), in the tank, Impossible Foods is now thinking that a much-bantered-about IPO may not be the best idea for its investors.

The alternative: a sale of the entire company within a couple of years.

“It’s one option,” Impossible Foods CEO Peter McGuinness said on Yahoo Finance’s Opening Bid podcast when asked about the possibility of a sale (video above or listen here). “And that could get Impossible in more places and actually achieve the mission faster. Investors could get a good return, and employees could get a good return on their equity.”

McGuinness also didn’t rule out a “sizable” capital raise or that often-discussed IPO, but floating a sale is a new wrinkle to the end game for the plant-based meat maker.

The company’s last capital raise tallied $500 million in November 2021.

McGuinness conceded that Impossible Foods — founded in 2011 by Dr. Pat Brown — is not yet profitable despite a few rounds of layoffs. The losses reflect a pullback in demand for plant-based meat and inefficiencies in the business. The former Chobani COO has been working to improve its operations since joining the company in 2022.

Impossible Foods has more than enough cash on hand to operate its business, and no decision on a sale, IPO, or capital raise has been reached.

“We could talk about it, you know, in a year or two from now in more detail. But right now, it’s do the fundamentals better, get distribution, build awareness, make the food better. I know it sounds basic and boring, but it works. It’s a playbook that works,” McGuinness added.

Joey Chestnut, winner of the 2021 Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest, poses for photos in Coney Island’s Maimonides Park, July 4, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Brittainy Newman, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Impossible doesn’t need to look far to see what an IPO could bring.

Rival Beyond Meat burst onto the public scene on May 5, 2019, with a sizzling initial public offering on the Nasdaq.

Investors devoured shares of a company they saw as the leader in the plant-based food industry. The company priced its IPO at $25 a share, opened for trading at $46, and then surged to $65.75 by the close. The gain when that closing bell sounded: a meaty 163%.

From there, it was a whirlwind of activity for Beyond Meat, with big deals with global restaurant chains such as KFC (YUM) and Dunkin’ Donuts, expansion plans into the refrigerated food sections at Target (TGT) and retailers overseas, and efforts to expand manufacturing capacity and create new plant-based items.

By July 2019, shares of Beyond Meat hit a peak of $234.90 a share.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic hammered the restaurant industry, and its financial toll sent people back to cheaper meat-based items at supermarkets.

Beyond Meat’s impressive momentum stalled, much like that of Impossible Foods, which had been expanding into restaurants such as Burger King (QSR) and at retail stores.

Along the way, attacks from entrenched parties in the meat industry and media on the healthiness of plant-based items hurt Beyond Meat’s and Impossible Foods’ standing with consumers. By November 2022, with losses eating into cash flow, Beyond Meat was forced to lay off 19% of its workforce.

In January 2023, Impossible Foods laid off about 20% of its workforce.

Retail plant-based food dollar sales reached $8.1 billion in 2023, down from $8.2 billion in 2022, according to a report from Good Food Institute.

Beyond Meat’s stock price today: $6.97.

McGuinness didn’t disclose Impossible Foods’ valuation, but it’s likely below the $7 billion it hit at its 2021 funding round.

Said McGuinness, “The category is not where it needs to be. So investors are kind of cautious right now.”

Target (TGT) has to get its act together, retail expert Jeff Macke told me. Listen to his thesis below on Opening Bid.

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