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Beyond Meat Versus Peers In R&D Spending

A vegan dish. Flickr Image.

Beyond Meat has been touted as one of the most innovative companies in the food packaging industry and possibly one of the fastest-growing too in the world, generating net revenue of nearly $300 million in 2019 alone.

The company’s innovative approach to creating the world’s best plant-based meat products does not come without a cost. Reportedly, it has spent well over $20 million in research and development in 2019 alone to develop some of the world’s best plant-based protein products.

In this article, we will explore Beyond Meat’s R&D spending and compares it with that of the company’s peers such as Kellogg’s Company and Conagra Brand which also develop plant-based meat products.

The research and development expenses alone do not tell us much about the company’s ambition in taking its innovation further. As such, we will also look at the R&D spending with respect to its revenue or sales to see how serious the company is in spending a portion of its sales on research and development.

Without further delay, let’s move on!

Beyond Meat’s Research and Development Spending

Beyond Meat quarterly R&D expense

Beyond Meat quarterly R&D expense

Let’s first explore the company’s quarterly R&D expenditure and the ratio of R&D to revenue which is shown in the chart above.

According to the chart, Beyond Meat’s quarterly research and development expenses were seen trending higher from 2019 to 2020, reaching as much as $6 million in 2Q 2020.

Year over year, the Q2 2020 R&D spending represents a growth rate of roughly 40%.

In terms of R&D spending to revenue ratio, Beyond Meat achieved a ratio of roughly 5% in 2Q 2020. Over the past several quarters, the company’s R&D to sales ratio seems to be declining on a quarterly basis.

For instance, the R&D to sales ratio was way higher in early 2019, reaching more than 10%. However, the ratio declined steadily and reached only 5% in 2Q20, the lowest since 2019.

These figures seem to tell us that Beyond Meat’s R&D budget has been on a decline.

However, we can’t possibly arrive at a conclusion by just looking at Bynd’s R&D cost and the ratio alone. Instead, we need to compare these figures with that of the company’s peers to see how its R&D expenditure stacks up against its bigger competitors.

Beyond Meat’s Market Capitalization Comparison

Beyond Meat market cap comparison with peers

Beyond Meat market cap comparison with peers

The chart above shows some of Beyond Meat’s competitors in the plant-based protein industry and their respective market capitalization.

Based on the chart, Kellogg Company is the biggest among the 3 in terms of market cap at almost $24 billion.

Conagra Brand takes the 2nd place at $19 billion.

Beyond Meat is the smallest among the 3 at only $8 billion in market cap.

Of course, some of these companies may not be compared directly with Beyond Meat as they are not merely plant-based meat product players like Beyond Meat.

As such, the comparison serves only as a reference or guideline for readers to see how far Beyond Meat’s market cap has gone with respect to some of these companies that also produce plant-based meat products.

Beyond Meat’s R&D Spending Comparison with Peers

Beyond Meat R&D expenses comparison with peers

Beyond Meat R&D expenses comparison with peers

In terms of research and development costs, the chart above shows that Kellogg spent the most, averaging around $150 million per year from 2016 to 2019.

Conagra Brand spent about $50 million on average on R&D in the last 4 years.

Beyond Meat spent the least on research and development at about $21 million in 2019 which was less than 50% of what Conagra Brand spent in 2019.

Although Beyond Meat spent the least on R&D on an absolute value, the growth in R&D spending has been phenomenal.

For example, Beyond Meat’s $21 million R&D expense in 2019 represents a year on year growth of 110%.

Similarly, Beyond Meat’s R&D spending of $9.6 million in 2018 represents a year on year growth of nearly 70%.

As mentioned in the prior discussion, the comparison can only be taken with a pinch of salt as companies such as Kellogg and Conagra Brand are not entirely focusing on plant-based meat products.

Ratio of Beyond Meat’s R&D Spending to Sales

Beyond Meat R&D costs to revenue ratio

Beyond Meat R&D costs to revenue ratio

The absolute figures for the companies’ R&D spending do not give us much information about the size of the R&D budget with respect to sales. Therefore, in this section, we will explore the R&D expenses with respect to sales or revenue.

As seen from the chart above, Beyond Meat has the biggest R&D spending to revenue ratio at 7% in 2019 despite spending the least amount of money on research and development.

Kellogg ranks in the 2nd when it comes to the R&D costs to sales ratio at about 1%.

Conagra Brands spent the least on R&D with respect to revenue at less than 1% of sales from 2016 to 2019.

Although Beyond Meat spent the most on R&D with respect to revenue, the ratio has been declining from as much as 36% sales in 2016 to only 7% sales in 2019.

While the 7% R&D ratio may seem the lowest in 2019 for BYND, it was, nevertheless, the highest among the 3 companies, suggesting that Beyond Meat takes innovation seriously.

Since Beyond Meat is the least established among the 3 companies, it needs to spend as much as possible on research and development to quickly gain a strong foothold in the plant-based meat industry.

Moreover, Beyond Meat also needs to produce and diversify its product varieties to compete with these larger players who reportedly have much greater resources and capital.

And the only way to do this is to spend heavily on research and development to develop more innovative products.

Conclusion

In summary, Beyond Meat takes innovation seriously as reflected in the research and development budget of as much as 7% sales in 2019.

Besides, Beyond Meat also ranks the highest in terms of the ratio of R&D to sales compared to Kellogg and Conagra Brands despite spending less than half of what Conagra Brands spent on R&D in 2019.

References and Credits

1. Financial figures in all charts in this article were obtained and referenced from financial reports available in :

(a) Beyond Meat’s Financials and Filings.
(b) Conagra Brands’ Financials and Filings.
(c) Kellogg Company’s Financials and Filings.

2. Featured images in this article are used under the creative commons license and sourced from the following websites:
(a) Ella Olsson
(b) Nestlé

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