CEO defends Beyond Meat as shares tank: 'My focus is entirely on growing this business'


Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown told CNBC on Tuesday the alternative meat producer is concentrating on disrupting the food industry rather than partnering with industry giants.
"My focus is entirely on growing this business" to a $40 billion company in terms of revenue, Brown said on "Squawk Box" — as shares plunged nearly 19%, with insiders free for the first time Tuesday to sell stock after the May initial public offering.
The CEO, who said he's not touching his shares, said he wants to build the business organically. "People have asked me, 'Do you want to do a partnership with a larger company?' I have no interest in that. I want to be that larger company."
Despite Tuesday's weakness and other bouts of recent selling, the stock was still up more than 230% since its IPO was priced at $25 per share.
However, competitors are popping up as big food companies and traditional meat producers roll out their own versions of plant-based products. "The consumer is looking for something new from somebody new," Brown countered. "It's hard for an incumbent to focus as we do, to move as quick as we do."
Privately held Impossible Foods, a direct competitor in meatless burgers, began selling in grocery stores in September, with plans to continue making it available in more regions nationwide. Brown said he has not any diminished grocery sales or shelf space for Beyond Meat.
While Beyond Meat launched first in grocery stores before being added to restaurant menus, Impossible took a different route. New York's Momofuku Nishi, founded by celebrity chef David Chang, was the first business to sell the plant-based Impossible Burger in 2016. Others soon followed, from fine dining restaurants in San Francisco to eventually Red Robin, family-owned White Castle and Burger King, a unit of Restaurant Brands International.
After a slower start, Beyond Meat is adding restaurants. "When you look at McDonald's, Subway or Dunkin' or KFC, those are the largest names in food, and we're partnering with them to bring out products to the consumer," Brown said.
Tuesday's stock drop came despite Beyond Meat reporting its first quarterly profit after-the-bell on Monday afternoon. Revenue in the third-quarter also beat expectations.
— CNBC's Amelia Lucas and Aditi Roy contributed to this report.

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