Vegan and plant-based companies may be of special interest to the investor looking to add some socially conscious investments to their portfolio. But many of these companies are young, untested and facing an uncertain future.
What are vegan stocks?
Vegan stocks are stocks from companies that market to vegans. Most of these companies are food manufacturers that specialize in vegan-friendly and plant-based products.
The vegan diet excludes meat, dairy products, eggs and all other ingredients derived from animals. Dietary staples include fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Publicly traded companies that exclude animal products from their offerings may be considered vegan stocks.
Why invest in vegan stocks?
It’s a growing industry that’s adding companies that qualify as socially responsible investments, and more and more people are becoming interested in veganism. Between 2014 and 2017, vegans in the US grew from 1% to 6% according to Forbes.
The global plant-based meat market — a hearty component of many vegan diets — was worth $12.1 billion in 2019 and is forecasted to reach $74.2 billion by 2027, according to a report from Meticulous Research. And with the Plant Based Food Association reporting that 29% of Americans now identify as flexitarians — shoppers aiming to cut back on animal-based food products — the plant-based food market is well-positioned to grow at a healthy rate.
In addition to a positive growth forecast, vegan stocks qualify as a socially responsible investment. Socially responsible investments support companies that aim to have a positive social or environmental impact. This type of investing has become more popular in recent years and gives investors the opportunity to support companies and causes they truly care about.
Whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian or simply want to support companies that refrain from selling animal products, vegan stocks are one way to introduce socially responsible investments into your portfolio.
What unique risks do vegan companies face?
The risks facing vegan stocks are the same risks that face many new, rapidly evolving industries: instability.
This portion of the global food market is still small, to say the least. And while it’s definitely growing, it hasn’t proven itself long term. Many companies that specialize in vegan and plant-based products are startups.
And startups are an inherently risky investment. There’s no guarantee these newer companies will stand the test of time, especially considering how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the way we dine.
Beyond Meat — one of the biggest players in plant-based meat — sells half its products to restaurants. And a number of its competitors are in the same boat. In light of the pandemic, restaurants simply aren’t seeing the same numbers of patrons, even considering the shift toward takeout, pickup and delivery options.
There’s no telling how the pandemic will affect the restaurant industry long-term. And with such a large cut of plant-based company sales going to restaurants, these companies will undoubtedly be affected.
Veganism has begun to take root in American dietary trends, but these companies may be too new for the experienced investor to gamble on.
If you’re ready to add some socially conscious stocks to your portfolio, you have a few options. While most of these stocks are available on US exchanges, which makes them easy to purchase from common brokers like Robinhood and Chase You Invest, Else Nutrition and Burcon NutraScience are both listed on Canadian exchanges.
To purchase international stocks, you’ll need to open an international share trading account. Select a company to learn more about what they do and how their stock performs, including market capitalization, the price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio, price/earnings-to-growth (PEG) ratio and dividend yield. While this list includes a selection of the most well-known and popular stocks, it doesn't include every stock available.
What ETFs track vegan companies?
Investors looking for a vegan-focused ETF may be pleasantly surprised to discover the U.S. Vegan Climate ETF (VEGN): the first publicly traded fund to focus on vegan investments.
The U.S. Vegan Climate ETF holds over $18 million in assets and has an expense ratio of 0.6%. It’s a socially responsible fund that primarily filters out companies involved in animal products, testing, farming and animals used for sports or entertainment purposes. But the fund also exempts companies that:
- Extract, refine or produce fossil fuels
- Consume fossil fuels for energy
- Have a significant carbon footprint
- Have a history of environmental habitat destruction
- Produce tobacco
- Produce armaments and products designed for military or defense use
- Have a history of human rights abuses
As of March 2020, the U.S. Vegan Climate ETF held 268 companies, including Apple, Microsoft and Facebook.
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For those ready to add some plant-based investments to their portfolio, vegan stocks represent an investment opportunity on the rise and gaining momentum. But most companies in this industry have plenty more ground to cover before they can be considered a stable investment.
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Frequently asked questions
Are Beyond Meat products vegan?
Yes, Beyond Meat products are 100% vegan-friendly.
How can something be considered a vegan stock even if they sell animal products?
Vegan pure plays — companies that exclusively offer vegan products — are rare. In fact, most of the U.S. Vegan Climate ETF’s top 10 holdings are tech companies that don’t offer vegan products: like Intel, AT&T and Microsoft. A stock can be considered a vegan stock if it offers vegan or plant-based products or if it offers products that don’t exploit animals.
But be careful: Some companies considered to be a vegan investment offering plant-based foods may also manufacture meat products. If you have strict ethical investing guidelines, investigate a stock before you purchase it to better understand what the company does and what it offers.
What is veganism and how does it work?
Veganism is a lifestyle characterized by the exclusion of animal products from material purchases and food consumption. Veganism aims to limit animal cruelty and the environmental impact of animal exploitation.
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