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The Ratings Game: Restaurant resurgence will put Beyond Meat back on track, analyst says

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Beyond Meat Inc. has been squeezed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but with the vaccine rollout driving the return to restaurants, Bernstein analysts are upbeat about the plant-based meat company’s prospects.

Bernstein upgraded Beyond Meat
BYND,
+10.00%

to outperform from underperform in a note published Monday, calling the company “a reopening play that stands to
regain meaningful momentum over the coming quarters.”

Bernstein has a $130 price target on Beyond Meat.

See: Oatly aims to convert cow’s milk drinkers in pursuit of sales, and a better planet

Shares of the plant-based meat company soared 10% in Monday trading after the upgrade.

One consequence of increased dining at home has been a rise in competition at the grocery store. Impossible Foods, which has been expanding in the retail channel as well as in restaurants, has benefited.

There are reports that Impossible Foods is preparing for a $10 billion IPO.

Beyond Meat has partnerships with McDonald’s Corp.
MCD,
+0.29%
,
as well as a number of other big chains, along with its own expanding retail availability.

“The drop off in foodservice sales had a very direct impact on the business domestically and internationally, and this in turn led to a marked acceleration in Impossible Foods’ efforts to expand in retail channels,” wrote Bernstein analysts led by Alexia Howard.

“We expect foodservice channels to rebound as consumer mobility improves post the pandemic and this should also lead to decreased competition in the U.S. retail channel.”

Moreover, Bernstein highlights the international expansion that will come with a new Dutch facility and the aforementioned McDonald’s deal.

In addition to the growing access, Beyond Meat, and the plant-based alternatives category more broadly, is getting a boost from consumer trends that favor fewer animal proteins for health and environmental purposes.

“Diets constantly evolve, and consumers are increasingly adhering to diets that limit animal products in some way,” according to a report from Technomic, a data and analytics provider for the food-service industry.

The flexitarian diet allows for a variety of animal-based items, and therefore isn’t as strict as vegetarianism or veganism.

“The flexitarian diet has increased the most since 2018 and has the highest adherence, likely because it’s the most accommodating and customizable,” Technomic said.

Don’t miss: Beyond Meat aims to quiet the ‘noise’ about the ingredients in its plant-based foods

Even as diners head back out after a year of preparing most of their meals at home, Bernstein expects plant-based items to still populate plates.

“[W]hile meat alternatives as a category are clearly still being buoyed by the relative strength of food at home vs. food away from home and we would expect this to fade as reopening happens and foodservice channels open up, it certainly doesn’t seem as though momentum for plant-based meats has evaporated during the pandemic,” analysts said.

Beyond Meat stock has fallen 6.2% for the year to date while the benchmark S&P 500 index
SPX,
+0.99%

is up 11.7% for the period.

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