Lewis Hamilton investment another sign of booming meat-free industry

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
Formula One racing driver Lewis Hamilton has invested in Neat Burger, a plant-based burger chain. Photo: Charles Coates/Getty Images

The meat-free burger continues to make its ascent, and Formula One racing driver Lewis Hamilton, who this week said he had invested in a new chain called Neat Burger, is just the latest to put his money where his mouth is.

Shares in Beyond Meat (BYND) — which has created Neat Burger’s patties — have surged by more than 150% since the company first traded on the Nasdaq in May.

Beyond Meat, which uses pea protein and beet juice to give its burgers the consistency of real beef, has developed three plant-based burgers, as well as a hot dog alternative, for Neat Burger, which is hoping to become the first plant-based sustainable burger chain.

Neat Burger will open its first outlet, on London’s Regent Street, in a matter of days.

Hamilton, who has been a vegan since 2017, said in a statement that he was passionate about “being kinder to our world” and the chain’s “commitment to more ethical practices.”

It was also about creating a healthier high street option, he said. But it also looks like a good investment decision.

READ MORE: Lewis Hamilton launches vegan burger chain

Barclays predicts that alternative meat will become a £115bn ($140m) industry within a decade, but the market isn’t just limited to vegans: over 92% of plant-based meals consumed in the UK last year were eaten by non-vegans.

That shows that there is a market for Neat Burger — but not all analysts are optimistic about the company that supplies its burgers.

To justify its current valuation, Beyond Meat has to grow its revenue by more than 40 times — which is undoubtedly why about 10% of the company’s publicly available shares have been shorted.

In its initial public offering (IPO) document, Beyond Meat said it considered the market opportunity to be the $1.3 trillion meat industry overall.

Considering its estimated revenue for its current financial year is thought to be about $200m, it has plenty of room to expand.

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The meat-free industry has steadily stepped towards the mainstream in recent years: in April, Burger King trialled the Impossible Whopper in dozens of restaurants.

Made by Beyond Meat rival Impossible Burger, which uses an iron-rich protein called heme to give its patties the taste of beef, the meat-free Whopper is being considered for a roll-out to all 7,200 locations in the country.

Last week, Greggs (GRG.L), the UK’s largest bakery chain, said it was working on vegan versions of all of its bestselling offerings following the runaway success of its vegan sausage roll.

The industry has also been bolstered by a newfound push to take action on climate change.

Meat production is one of the biggest contributors to climate change, and the processes used to create the Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger patties use just a fraction of the greenhouse gases.