Changing trends: The financial impact on food companies

Bruce Roher • March 22, 2021
Bruce Roher

Many well-established food companies have been impacted by three significant and converging consumer trends over the last few years. First, consumers are eating more meals and snacks at home because of the pandemic. Second, there has been a shift, particularly amongst younger shoppers, to purchase products from local or organic producers. Third, there continues to be a growing interest in plant-based alternatives. We will examine how these changing consumer behaviours have impacted the sales growth and stock prices of several global public food companies.

Kraft Heinz Company

Global food giant Kraft Heinz Company (KHC) has many well-entrenched brands including Kraft products, Maxwell House coffee, Oscar Mayer hot dogs, and Philadelphia cream cheese.

Although KHC is best know for its popular brands, it is beginning to focus R&D spending on plant-based investments. In a 2019 press release, KHC announced that it invested $3.5 million in New Culture, a biotech start-up producing dairy animal-free dairy cheese. Also, in a 2020 press release, KHC announced that it is considering launching a vegan soft cheese spread option.

In KHC’s 2020 annual report, organic sales increased by 6.5% compared to 2019, which was primarily driven by continued growth of at-home consumption and higher pricing.

Kellogg Company

Kellogg’s brands include household names such as Pringles, Cheez-It, Special K, Pop-Tarts, and various cereal products such as Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies, Mini-Wheats, and Eggo.

While Kellogg is best known for its well-established cereal and snack brands, it also owns MorningStar Farms and Gardenburger, makers of plant-based food products such as burgers, veggie bacon strips, sausages, vegetarian breakfast sandwiches, and chicken nugget alternatives. Kellogg does not provide sales data for the plant-based lines relative to its traditional brands. However, as consumers are noticeably reducing their meat consumption, the plant-based products should realize sustained growth for years to come.

Kellogg achieved organic sales growth of 6.0% for 2020, compared to 2019.

Mondelez

Mondelez owns many well-known snack brands including Oreos, Cadbury, Trident, and Tang.

In January 2021, Mondelez announced its acquisition of Hu Master Holdings known for its vegan chocolate bars and other plant-based snacks.

In Mondelez’s 2020 annual report, it reported organic sales growth 3.7% for the year, the result of higher pricing and volumes.

SunOpta

SunOpta is a Canadian-headquartered global company focused entirely on plant-based foods and beverages and fruit-based foods and beverages.

In SunOpta’s 2020 annual report, the company reported 9.4% revenue growth compared to 2019. Growth was led by very strong sales growth in the company’s plant-based business unit.

Beyond Meat

Beyond Meat offers a portfolio of plant-based meats made from simple ingredients without GMOs, bioengineered ingredients, hormones, antibiotics, or cholesterol.

In Beyond Meat’s 2020 annual report, revenue increased by 36.6% compared to 2019.

Comparing stock performance

Interestingly, of these five companies, the best 2020 stock price performers were the companies that focus entirely on plant-based food and beverages – SunOpta increased by 371% and Beyond Meat by 66% over 2019.  The other three companies that focus on more traditional non-plant-based brands, realized more moderate stock price increases ranging from a decrease of 8% to an increase of 11% in the same time period.

Today’s landscape

With many consumers working from home during the pandemic, companies with well-established brands are enjoying increased demand. In particular, producers in the plant-based industry are witnessing a surge in popularity for their products, driving food companies to invest in the growing plant-based protein market. Their ability to react and adapt to these trends will continue to have a direct impact on their overall financial health.

About the author

Bruce Roher, CPA, CA, CBV, CFF, CFE is a partner at Fuller Landau LLP leading the business valuations practice and co-leader of Fuller Landau’s Food & Beverage group. He can be reached at broher@fullerllp.com or (416) 645-6526.

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