Beyond Meat hires Tesla exec to drive global expansion

Beyond Meat has poached a former Tesla executive to steer its global expansion.

The plant-based meat company announced Thursday it named Sanjay Shah, a former senior vice president of Tesla’s solar business, as its Chief Operating Officer to oversee global operations and production.

Shah joined Tesla, known for its investments in electric cars and solar energy, in 2011. Now he’ll pivot from sustainable energy to sustainable food. And investment strategists say with increasing competition in the category, he'll need to scale quickly.

"Competition is stiff in the growing category with Kellogg (Morningstar) and Conagra rebooting and expanding existing brands," David Kudla, CEO and chief investment strategist at Mainstay Capital Management told FOX Business. "We expect Beyond Meat to leverage experienced leadership from outside firms to fill roles quickly to meet expansion opportunities."

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
BYND BEYOND MEAT INC. 9.77 -0.92 -8.61%

Shares of Beyond Meat have increased by more than 500% since it went public in May. And Barclays estimates that Beyond Meat could reach 4.5% market share of the global alternative meat industry, a $14-billion market in the United States. The company's influence has even America's biggest meat producer trying to compete. Tyson Foods, the maker of hot dogs, steak strips and chicken nuggets announced in June it would roll out plant-based nuggets and a "blended" patty that's a combination of Angus beef and pea protein.

 Ethan Brown, center, CEO of Beyond Meat, attends the Opening Bell ceremony with guests to celebrate the company's IPO at Nasdaq in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

The plant-based sales are up 10% since 2018, according to market research from The Good Food Institute. That number is growing more than five times as fast as conventional meat sales, which have increased just 2% since 2018.

Others are skeptical of Beyond Meat's move to hire a former Tesla exec.

“The market might like it for 24 hours, but it’s all sizzle and no steak unless Beyond Meat decides to sell electric cars,” brand management expert Eric Schiffer, CEO of Reputation Management Consultants, told FOX Business. “Tesla is known for capital efficient programs using first principles, but that is not going to be material for Beyond Meat because they were already designed to use that framework. This is a bizarre move and a desperation warning shot to investors.”

Beyond Meat released a "new, meatier Beyond Burger" nationwide on Tuesday. (Beyond Meat)

Beyond Meat released its plant-based burger in the meat section of grocery stores in 2016. Retail sales of refrigerated plant-based burgers in the U.S. surged 151% since 2018, according to market research from The Good Food Institute.

Meanwhile, Impossible Foods, one of Beyond Meat’s biggest competitors, announced on Thursday it will sell its Impossible Burger at 27 Gelson’s Markets grocery stores on the West Coast with expansion planned for the East Coast and nationwide everywhere by next year. Impossible Foods has a presence globally with products in Hong Kong and Macau. It also ships to 450 restaurants in Asia.

“Sanjay’s focus on making operational excellence a sustained competitive advantage, his experience in and appetite for global expansion, along with shared values and a tireless work ethic, makes him a welcome addition to the Beyond Meat family,” Ethan Brown, Beyond Meat Chief Executive said in the announcement Thursday.