Top vegan stocks and investing in veganism

Top vegan stocks and investing in veganism
Are they ripe for a pickin'?
Gemma Boothroyd
Published
July 26, 2022

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The vegan industry

These days, you’d be hard pressed to find a menu without ‘Vg’ sitting next to an item or two. The diet (or lifestyle, depending on where you sit at the table) has been around for thousands of years. But back then it probably looked a little more like picking berries rather than picking up a plant-based steak bake at Greggs.

According to Allied Research, the vegan food market is growing at a compound annual rate of 10.5%. If so, it’s growing faster than the overall food industry, which suggests demand for vegan goods goes beyond growing populations needing more food. It would also imply a big shift in the way we eat and what we want that food to look like.

The rise of plant-based foods

But just how much you believe that demand is rising depends on where you get your data from. The Plant-Based Food Association estimates ‘meatless meat’ hasn’t really grown its fan base of repeat buyers. Only 78% of Americans bought a meatless product again after their first purchase in 2020, with the figure growing to just 79% the following year. So while the industry is growing, it seems retention is expanding at a slower pace.

And differences across the vegan market are important to note too. Some plant alternatives have been more popular than others. Plant-based milk seems to be experiencing the fastest growth among the plant-based alternatives.

And that’s not just based on the demand side of things. A big part of the equation is the influx of plant-based products the market has seen over the past few years.

What are vegan stocks and why invest in them?

Look no further than the stock market for evidence of that. There have long been publicly traded firms that you can invest in offering vegan products. But it’s only been the past few years that have seen firms come to market with exclusively vegan ranges.

Beyond Meat was the first vegan IPO, which listed on the Nasdaq in 2019. Oatly is another purely vegan stock choosing to list in 2021 on the Nasdaq as well.

But neither company set out to create a product for vegans. They both wanted to create plant-based substitutes that tasted similar enough to their non-vegan alternatives to be consumed by those looking for the ‘real thing’.

What to consider when buying vegan stocks

And that’s probably what’s helped them grow larger than many grassroots vegan firms. They’ve both been able to cater their products to the masses as opposed to hone in on a smaller target market.

The size of an addressable market is key to a firm's ability to grow its revenues and scale. And understanding how big that market is can be critical to deciding whether a firm is worth your money when it’s in growth mode. 

Capitalising on a type of product, like vegan food, that’s already experiencing high growth is a good start. But it’s not enough to warrant your hard-earned cash as an investment. 

Plant-based alternatives tend to require a ton of research and development. Beyond Meat spent $31.5m in 2020 to get its plant-based proteins as close as possible to the meat products they're trying to simulate. That same year, their profit was $122.3m. 

Evidently, getting close to the ‘real thing’ comes with a big price tag attached. Given many of these vegan companies are still in growth mode and continually investigating new technologies and trying new recipes, you need to consider they may not be profitable for years to come. 

Oatly, for instance, reported a Q1 loss of $81.4m, even with $669m in revenue, blaming the costs of distribution and the public funding process for its widening deficit. 

Which vegan companies can you invest in?

You’re not short on choice when it comes to investing in vegan brands and products. Their stocks are listed across many of the big exchanges, and some of the ones listed here may even come as a surprise.

Before we get stuck in though, it’s important to highlight that this is a wrap-up, not a suggestion or recommendation that you buy or sell any of the securities mentioned. 

Remember that everyone has their own goals and unique financial circumstances. These, along with your tolerance for investment risk and time horizon, should inform the mix of assets in your portfolio. 

Our resource hub for investing in the stock market might be able to help make that blend a bit clearer for you and our guide on how to invest in stocks is a great start for first-time investors. And if you are still unsure of how to pick investments, speak to a qualified financial advisor. 

Top popular vegan stocks to invest in

Here’s a recap of the stocks we’ll cover. It’s not advice to buy or sell any of the vegan stocks mentioned here.

So this isn’t a list of the top vegan stocks to invest in. It’s simply a list of some popular vegan investments on Freetrade that can offer investors ideas of vegan companies to invest in. 

10 vegan stocks on Freetrade
Name Ticker Overview
Tattooed Chef TTCF Plant-based foods
Congara Brands CAG Group of food companies including vegan and plant-based firms
Domino’s DOM Pizza with plant-based and vegan alternatives
*DOM is the UK listing, DPZ is the US listing
Beyond Meat BYND Plant-based meat substitute
Agronomics ANIC Sustainable food production investment group
Ulta ULTA Beauty group with vegan brands
Olaplex OLPX Vegan hair products
Smurfit Kappa SKG Vegan-certified packaging
Rize Sustainable Future of Food ETF FOOD This ETF aims to invest in companies that might benefit from more sustainable food and production systems
MGP Ingredients MGPI Food and beverage company making plant-based proteins

Food and Beverages

Tattooed Chef

Tattooed Chef makes plant-based, farmed foods like acai bowls and cauliflower crust pizza.  It first came to market through a SPAC merger in 2020 and has two main markets: the US and Italy.

Tattooed Chef’s Q1 revenue grew by 37.3% to $72m while its loss more than doubled to $16.6m. Although it’s not unusual for a new company like Tattooed Chef to still be loss-making, something to note is that just two customers accounted for 54% of those revenues. And three customers accounted for over 89% of its Q1 revenue.

That’s a very heavy reliance on a very small number of firms. 

Should one of those customers withdraw orders or step back from a deal, Tattooed Chef’s revenue would plummet. As an investor, that means you aren’t only banking on the firm’s ability to keep those customers happy, you’re also hoping circumstances won’t change for the customers themselves.

That might make it a riskier investment than a firm with a bigger pool of customers across different industries or sectors.

Meat

Congara Brands

Congara Brands is a US-based group of food companies. While it doesn’t exclusively carry vegan brands, it has a few within its portfolio.

One is Gardein, which makes meatless substitutes for chicken, turkey, beef, pork and fish. It also owns Earth Balance, which creates a variety of vegan spreads like margarine. 

Congara hasn’t had the best start to the year. While its latest quarter’s net sales rose by 5% to $2.9bn, net income fell 22.2% to $218.9m. That’s partly because demand for food products like canned and frozen goods has somewhat abated since the pandemic. Higher transport costs and inflation made it harder for the firm to maintain margins too.

The firm doesn’t expect the tides to turn very soon either. It has expressed worries that costs will continue to eat away at gross margins for the upcoming quarter. Congara expects to raise its prices to combat this but, for now, the firm’s uncertain as to how much of those costs it’ll be able to pass on to the consumer.

MGP Ingredients

Similarly to Congara, MGP isn’t an exclusively vegan company but its Proterra series of products create meat-based proteins out of wheat, offering a vegan alternative to ground beef. 

MGP calls its vegan protein line its “Ingredient Solutions”, and the segment’s revenue shot up 46.2% to $28m in Q1. Gross profit for the product line also grew by 29% to $8.1m, which was the segment’s highest ever level of growth.

Though that division is still very small relative to MGP’s main revenue source, which is its alcohol division. 

While investing in a firm with such a wide variety of companies within its portfolio can mean you have greater diversification than in a firm with just one single product, the problem is, you might not be interested in everything it has to offer.

Milk

Oatly

Oatly is an example of the very opposite. It has a small line of products, all of which are made with one key ingredient. 

Any guesses on what that might be? 

The firm had a lot of hype when it went public last year at a $10bn valuation and it was one of the most popular vegan stocks on the Freetrade app.

Given the entire oat milk market is said to reach $2.2bn in 2026, that’s a massive valuation for the firm.

Even though Oatly’s the market leader for oat milk, it’s far from the only alternative on the market. Increasingly, smaller players are entering the space and Oatly has had a tough time becoming profitable with its expensive packaging and distribution costs. Especially because Oatly believes by localising manufacturing it’ll improve operating efficiencies and reduce its environmental impact. But that means it won’t be hitting profitability any time soon. 

It goes to show that being a household name (or at least in vegan milk-loving homes, that is) won’t guarantee profitability. The firm said, “prioritising growth investments over profitability” is its number one goal for now.

Investors don’t seem to be loving that approach and the firm’s share price has been decimated since its post-IPO peak. 

It’ll be a while yet until Oatly is profitable, but that in isolation shouldn’t spook investors. Achieving healthy margins can take time and careful investment. But if you don’t believe in the people at the helm nor their plan to get there, that makes sticking around a lot tougher.

Cheese

Domino’s

Okay, so Domino’s might not be first to mind when it comes to veganism, but the pizza chain has been rolling out vegan dough and alternative cheese toppings to increase its offering.

It also introduced vegan nuggets, ‘pepperoNAY’ and ‘chick’aint’ a few years ago. A short round of applause to the marketing team behind those zingers. 

Domino’s is listed in both the US and the UK but it’s the UK branches that offer vegan pizzas.

The company has said its vegan products have brought in a lot of new customers, and it plans on continuing to innovate other meatless products.

The firm is also very clear on its vegan control practices, which vow to minimise the risk of cross contamination, and taking a zero-tolerance approach to any non-compliance.

If you’re searching for UK vegan stocks in the hope of taking advantage of the growing movement, Domino’s might be a lower-risk strategy for exposure to just that. You aren’t banking on a specific vegan product taking off, as an investor, you’re just hoping Domino’s has some success with its vegan products. 

But ultimately, if the firm didn’t, it would likely just re-focus its efforts into more profitable realms. So as an investor, you’d be taking on less risk. But if you’re looking to support a vegan company that would never stray from plant-based products, you might want to consider another stock instead.

Farming / Lab-grown

Beyond Meat

Beyond Meat might be a contender if you’re looking for an exclusively vegan investment. 

The company is one of the most popular vegan stocks to invest in and has gathered a lot of investor attention throughout the pandemic.

Just because it has a lot of eyeballs on it doesn’t mean it’s a worthy investment though.

In its latest Q1 results, the firm reported weak revenue growth of 1.2% to $109.5m. Beyond Meat’s net loss widened to 91.8% of sales, putting it $100.5m in the red too.

Worst of all, the plant-based protein maker’s US food service revenue dropped 7.5%. That’s a big blow to the firm given margins should be better from all its US restaurants and wholesale partnerships.

Bleak sales growth might suggest the firm’s reached a saturation point. It’s long touted that it doesn’t want to be a burger for vegetarians or vegans, it wants to be a burger for everyone which just so happens to be plant-based.

But conjuring up more meat lovers to make the switch is proving more difficult than planned. And for now, Beyond Meat’s recent partnership with Kim Kardashian looks more like a very costly marketing stunt rather than a real growth driver.

Agronomics

Agronomics is an investment firm focussed on companies involved in the environmentally sustainable production of foods. It has a number of plant-based meat companies in its portfolio, including Rebellyous Foods, and the plant-based holding company LiveKindly.

But it also carries a number of investments in firms claiming to produce meat in a more sustainable way.

So if you’re seeking a pureplay vegan stock, Agronomics isn’t the one for you. That said, two of its latest investments were plant-based. The firm participated in a Series A funding round for a dairy-free milk firm as well as a lab-grown leather maker. 

That means in one stock, you’re indirectly investing in vegan leather stocks and vegan milk stocks too. That can mean more diversification for your portfolio, but only if your portfolio doesn’t already carry these kinds of stocks and only if you’re aware of all of your holdings, including those of trusts and ETFs.

Beauty and wellness

Ulta 

Ulta is an American chain of beauty and cosmetics stores carrying over 600 brands. Some of its featured vegan brands include IGK, IT Brushes, Nailtopia and Tanology.

In 2020, the firm launched its ‘Conscious Beauty’ program in all stores, online and on its app, which pinpoints vegan, cruelty-free and sustainably packaged products. 

After taking a hit during the pandemic, Ulta has rebounded to well above its pre-pandemic sales levels. Last year it reported $8.8bn in revenue, which was 37.9% more than in 2020, and 12.6% more than in 2019.

Ulta is similar to Domino’s in that investing in the stock doesn’t mean you are exclusively investing in vegan products. You’re also investing in its non-vegan product lines too. 

Olaplex 

Olaplex, on the other hand, only creates vegan haircare products. 

Its share price has had a bumpy ride since going public in late 2021. After IPOing at a $15bn valuation in October, the shares have fallen quite far from their highs.

Net sales grew by 57.6% to $186.2m in the firm’s first quarter, with US growth leading the charge. But most of its revenue comes from professional salons which use its products as opposed to direct-to-consumer (DTC) retail. So the comparable period in 2021 would have struggled due to lockdowns and salons having to shut their doors.

Olaplex has some pretty noteworthy gross margins, earning 79.1% in profit from every dollar in sales. It’s also a profitable business, reporting a net income of $62m, an increase of 36.1%.

So although its share price has been falling, this could be more of a share price correction for an overvaluation at the onset of its IPO as opposed to the business massively underperforming. 

Packaging and supplies

Smurfit Kappa

Smurfit Kappa is the first and only vegan-certified packaging company according to The Vegan Society. 

In its first quarter, the firm grew revenue by 33% to €3,024m. Its main revenue streams are paper, packaging, recycling and forestry management.

If you’re wondering why packaging would ever not be vegan, food packaging is often made with animal products. Adhesive can be made with animal-based gelatin, for instance.

Looking forward, the firm might have a tough time sustaining its revenue growth if consumer spending slows and we permanently shift much of our online spend back to brick-and-mortar channels. 

Vegan ETFs

Rize Sustainable Future of Food ETF (FOOD)

This Rize ETF aims to invest in companies that might benefit from a transition towards “more sustainable food and production systems”. While that doesn’t guarantee the companies it invests in will be vegan, as at May 31st, 13.2% of the fund was invested in plant-based and organic foods, and 24.2% in ingredients, flavours and fragrances. Some of these are vegan products, but not all.

FOOD invests in a number of smaller companies which are less mature and often higher risk than larger ones. Agriculture can be a more volatile investment given factors like the weather, which is pretty much out of a farmer’s control, bearing the potential result of a bad crop yield. 

The smaller a firm is, the larger the risk that a singular influence could have some devastating long-term consequences for its revenue.

But the vast majority of FOOD’s holdings are actually in sustainable packaging, at 30.2% of its portfolio. One of its top investments is O-I Glass, an American glass producer that makes recycled glass bottles for distribution. It also invests in SIG Group, a UK-based renewable and recyclable carton and packaging maker. 

FOOD also has agricultural machinery maker John Deere and tyre manufacturer John Bean in its top holdings.

These might feel like some tenuous links to sustainable food production. It’s not that these firms aren’t involved in the transition in some way, shape or form, they just might not be as close to the action as you may think. 

That’s why it’s important as an investor you check the fund’s fact sheet before you invest to confirm your portfolio is invested in the places you want it to be. And when you’re investing in an ETF, checking the fund’s top holdings is critical in ensuring you actually have the diversification you think you’re getting. 

Vegan companies going public

While there are plenty of public companies with vegan products in their portfolio, there are relatively few pureplay vegan firms. As veganism rises in popularity, more vegan stocks may begin to list on stock exchanges.

Vegan egg and protein maker Eat Just (yes we agree, Just Eat is probably not thrilled by the name choice) said it would like to pursue an initial public offering in the coming years. It first suggested an IPO was in its future back in 2020 after sales grew 150% during the April to June pandemic period. 

Then in 2021, the firm was said to be going public at a valuation of $3bn by the end of the year. That never actualised, and given the market’s dry year for IPOs thus far, it seems unlikely to be happening any time soon.

It’s a tough time for companies seeking public capital and even vegan products, which have grown in popularity the past few years, are no exception. 

Do vegan stocks pay dividends?

Some vegan stocks pay dividends. But as is the case with any industry or sector, not all companies do.

Of the vegan stocks listed here, very few are dividend payers. This makes sense because firms choosing to pay dividends instead of reinvesting in their growth may be at more mature stages. They might also just be rewarding shareholders for a particularly good year.

The point is, you’re never guaranteed to get dividends in one period just because you got them in the last.

Of the vegan investments on this page, Smurfit Kappa has historically paid a dividend. But income received through dividends is never a guarantee, and it can always rise or fall.  

You can also earn dividend payments on investments made by an ETF. If the ETF’s portfolio includes companies making those payments to their investors, then the ETF will pay this out to you in cash.

Are vegan stocks a good investment?

It’s vastly more important to think about the bottom up when it comes to stock picking. There’s such thing as a good or bad thematic ETF, but at the end of the day, you’re investing in the business underneath it all. 

As an investor, that shouldn’t demotivate or deter you. Because it means you have the opportunity to pinpoint companies with sound business fundamentals that are honing in on veganism.

Think about your reasons for investing: is veganism something you believe will grow increasingly important, or is it a lifestyle you’re passionate about? Next, you can think about which companies give you the right kind of exposure to what matters to you most.

Remember that when it comes to investing in newer industries, companies can make sky-high claims. They might try to sell investors on being able to tap into a massive, growing trend when they don’t really have evidence to justify it. 

That’s where your analysis comes in. Take time to think about whether these claims are justified, and crucially, if the business is in a good position going forward.

It’s not to say investing in a vegan stock will always be the right or wrong choice for you. It’s just to say you shouldn’t get lured by the tip of the carrot sticking out of the dirt. You need to have a dig around under the soil first and make sure it’s the right one for picking. 

Join the discussion BHP Group, Persimmon, Just Eat, UK Inflation

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