Ten years after its foundation, Californian start-up Beyond Meat drew a lot of attention in May by staging the most successful IPO in 2019. After the first quarterly figures exceeded the expectations of the analysts, despite losses, the manufacturer of vegan meat products’ shares shot up to three to four times their initial value. While the company has yet to prove that it can survive this unprecedented hype, Beyond Meat is the pioneer of a whole industry and disruptive in the best sense. What makes Beyond Meat so successful? And what principles does the company share with other successful start-ups?
Beyond Meat founder Ethan Brown left behind his renewable energy career to focus on a matter that has always been close to his heart: Do we actually need animals to enjoy meat? And is there a way to “recreate” meat-like properties using plant-based ingredients? Soon, Brown’s idea got the backing of very prominent investors, including Bill Gates.
Up until 2013, Beyond Meat distributed plant-based chicken strips. In 2014, Ethan Brown set about creating the perfect burger with no animal ingredients. The experiment was successful: In 2015, “The Beast” was presented, which was deceptively similar in appearance and taste to the animal original, sizzling on the grill in the same way. A breakthrough, and other products such as sausages followed. After the spectacular IPO in early May 2019, the entire industry is on the rise, with competitors such as Impossible Foods and also behemoths such as the Nestlé Group announcing the production of their own vegan meat. Even if the stock prices seem overvalued – global publicity will do its bit to anchor Beyond Meat in the minds of people and help build an appreciable market share. A major success, based on principles relevant to all startups.
A product on a mission
Beyond Meat founder Ethan Brown had a great love for animals and agriculture since childhood and prior to starting his own business, he had a successful career in renewable energy. But the vegan entrepreneur kept pondering the same question – do we really need animals to enjoy meat? How can we optain the necessary protein without harming the environment and causing animals to suffer? The founder’s personal passion, which Brown has repeatedly reaffirmed in interviews with animal rights organizations over the years, gives Beyond Meat credibility that goes far beyond the pursuit of commercial success, and turns customers into fellow combatants in their quest for a better world.
No compromise but radical innovation
Replacement products for the ever-beloved burger have been around for a long time. So far, they have always been the choice of a slowly growing niche target group (vegetarians, vegans). In most cases, the replacement products had little resemblence to the original except the round shape. They were an often disappointing compromise, unloved by burger devotees. Beyond Meat has followed a more radical approach from the start. Their aim was not only to achieve the same taste as meat products, but also to provide the same properties when processing and eating – in other words, the perfect vegetable twin of a meaty burger. Big ambitions indeed, but with their claim, Beyond Meat were able to distinguish themselves against most of their competitors. When years of research resulted in a burger which even “bleeds” in the raw state, the product found itself catering all of a sudden to a huge target group – those of us who want to do something for the environment and animal rights, but couldn’t overcome their own eating habits.
Feeling good without giving up
The “Eat what you love” and “go beyond“slogans reveal everything about Beyond Meat’s strategy. Instead of telling people how much they harm the environment and animal welfare with their love of meat, and trying to use moral guilt to change their diet, Beyond Meat relies on positive messaging: Yes, you can enjoy your cherished burger. Do not change anything – and incidentally, you don’t just benefit your own health, but also the environment, and decrease animal suffering. An almost irresistible offer. Consequently, Beyond Meat do not target the small niche of vegetarians or vegans, which make up 5-6% of the market, but the by far larger group of those who, for health or moral reasons, have decided to cut down on their meat consumption but miss the taste of beef.
One marketing message at a time
Good for your health. Good for the environment and the climate. Good for animal welfare. And it tastes like meat, only it is plant-based. That’s almost too many sales arguments. That’s why Beyond Meat decided to focus its marketing efforts on “educating” the target group. Beyond Meat prioritized convincing people on the authentic taste of their products, concentrating on tastings or TV appearances. In addition, they invested heavily in explaining vegetable protein and its health benefits through cooperations with athletes. Their main point: to reduce reservations about plant-based meat that is not perceived as as natural as meat, and make people take a hearty bite of Beyond Meat products in the future. For their own good, but with climate and animal protection as highly desirable side effects. A message that falls on more and more open ears.
Learning from Beyond Meat: Our MARMIND Top Tips
Burn for what you do – then your product will look authentic by itself
Go radical – big ambitions give your product a strong profile
Focus on one marketing message at a time – it’s the quickest way to communicate what you stand for
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