In recent years, veganism has shifted from a fringe movement reserved for hippies, to a mainstream, oft-discussed, and arguably “trendy” diet and lifestyle choice that many food and clothing-providers happily cater to. Not only is this shift in public attitude towards veganism a result of outspokenly vegan celebrities like Ariana Grande, Paul McCartney, and Joaquin Phoenix, but also a universal moral awakening to the environmental impacts of traditional meat production in the agriculture industry, the linkages between an animal-meat-centric diet and a host of serious health complications, and policymakers’ growing focus on the obesity epidemic in the United States. Acclaimed documentaries like “What the Health” and “Cowspiracy,” both available on Netflix, have brought such issues to the forefront of the public’s collective conscience.
This shift in public morality has provoked changes in consumer demand in favor of healthier, more sustainably and ethically produced, and plant-based alternatives to both traditional animal-meat products and classically “American” snacks such as potato chips, Cheetos, and the like. In response, food and beverage giants have steadily increased their plant-based product lines, either through acquisitions of plant-focused startups or the generation of new product lines in-house. Such efforts have seen considerable support in international markets in particular – like China – where demand for vegan alternatives to animal products can scarcely be considered a recent development.
PepsiCo is the latest international food and beverage behemoth to hop on the plant-based bandwagon with its recent announcement of a joint venture with plant-based and sustainable food company Beyond Meat. Along with Impossible, Beyond Meat is one of today’s most popular providers of plant-based meat alternatives, with its wide range of products already distributed in grocers, restaurants, and fast-food chains. Until now, Beyond Meat’s marketing division has been limited primarily to social media campaigns, making its massive footprint on the food and beverage industry all the more impressive.
Beyond Meat’s distribution and marketing practices, however, are about to change and grow drastically through its new alliance with PepsiCo. In fact, hopes thereof were critical driving forces behind the health-focused newcomer’s decision to partner with a giant known for sugary drinks and products that prioritize convenience over quality. The joint venture, coined Planet Partnership, is expected to launch later this year with aims of creating a line of plant-based snacks and beverages that make nutritious alternatives widely available to a broad public, PepsiCo fulfilling its public promises of more sustainable and environmentally-friendly production practices, and encouraging consumers to make “positive choices for both people and the planet,” according to PepsiCo’s global chief commercial officer Ram Krishnan.
In response to public announcements of the joint venture, Beyond Meat’s (BYND) share price shot up 18%, while PepsiCo’s (PEP) remained effectively constant. Though some of this initial excitement in the market response has dissipated, Beyond Meat’s share price remains slightly above that which it had been immediately prior to public disclosure of the deal. While it will be interesting to see what effect, if any, the actual launch of products through the partnership has on both corporations’ share prices, the critical question will be whether this alliance has any long-term impact, directly or indirectly, on alleviating the environmental burdens on the planet caused by the agriculture industry’s hyper-focus on animal-meat production.