Is Beyond Meat overcooked?

J.P. Morgan analysts downgrade the stock to 'neutral' because they say it's too expensive

Photo: Beyond MeatPhoto: Beyond Meat

The price for a share of Beyond Meat almost tripled on the first day of trading in May and that was just a taste of what was to come.

The price has surged between 570% and 650% and on Tuesday, industry analysts with J.P. Morgan had enough–but not for fear that there isn’t more room to run for the plant-based alternative to beef.

READ: Quebec cattle farmers have a beef with Beyond Meat’s marketing

J.P. Morgan’s Ken Goldman and James Allen downgraded the stock to ‘neutral’ after a run that has cost short sellers $400 million, according to the research firm S3.

J.P. Morgan just upped its price target Friday by $23, to $120 but even that could not keep pace. The stock closed Friday at $138.65.

In a note to clients Tuesday, Goldman and Allen said the downgrade was “purely a valuation call.” They referenced a note from last week in which they said revenue and profit potential in Beyond Meat’s shares would eventually be priced in, adding, “we think this day has arrived.”

J.P. Morgan still says sales estimates for Beyond Meat are too conservative and believes it will continue to win over more customers. It’s being sold at 30,000 grocery stores, restaurants and schools in the U.S., Canada, Italy, the United Kingdom and Israel.

READ: Beyond Meat’s meteoric rise

Still, Beyond Meat has never made an annual profit, losing $30 million last year. It’s also facing increasing competition from other “new meat” companies including Impossible Foods and traditional players such as Tyson Foods entering the fray.

READ: Maple Leaf to build plant-based protein facility in Indiana

There might be room for all of them. U.S. sales of plant-based meats jumped 42% between March 2016 and March 2019 to a total of $888 million, according to Nielsen. Traditional meat sales rose 1% to $85 billion in that same period.

And demand is expected to continue to grow. Consulting firm Euromonitor predicts worldwide sales of meat substitutes will increase 22% by 2023 to a total of $22.9 billion.

READ: Beyond Meat owns the plant-based meat market, for now

The alternative burger wars are escalating too, on the technological front.

On Tuesday, Beyond Meat introduced the “new, meatier Beyond Burger” nationwide. The burger, according to the company, “features marbling designed to melt and tenderize like traditional ground beef.”