Beyond Meat, Warrior Ticks, and Nihilism
Yesterday, Blue Apron (NYSE: APRN) ramped 60% after it said it would include Beyond Meat products in its meal kits. I'm not kidding. 60 freakin' percent...
Now, I've used Blue Apron. My ex-girlfriend and I used it for a while. It was fun, the wine deals were good, and we got some recipe ideas, too. But it's not a very good long-term service; it gets boring and then it becomes a chore because you've got, like, three days to use a new kit or it goes bad.
And customer churn is exactly the problem the company faces. Blue Apron can sign people up like there's not tomorrow. But it can't keep its customers. Tough to stay in business when your customers bail after using whatever promotional bonus you offered up to get them on board.
I knew Beyond Meat was gonna be a good IPO. Sometimes you can just tell when a product has what it takes to really fire the imagination and go viral. Fake meat grown from plant cells has it in spades. And honestly, this idea — of growing protein — isn't going away...
Just last night I watched a presentation from a company that is cloning steaks. They looked damn good. Given the amount of arable land, the expense of raising beef, and the growing populations, fake beef is absolutely part of our future.
I'm not so sure about bugs. Yeah, I can see bug flour. Nice and crunchy like panko. But I'm not just eating a bug. I have before, and it's not at all satisfying.
Beyond Meat is absolutely a pioneer in this field. So props to them. But it doesn't usually end well for pioneers. They charge out ahead of the pack, drunk on the promise of new territory to be taken, and end up slaughtered or starved or stricken with some horrible disease.
So if you missed Beyond Meat — like I did, 'cause it all happened so fast and I was still laid up with sciatica — don't worry about it; there will be other opportunities...
In fact, Kellogg (NYSE: K) owns the Morningstar brand, which apparently compares quite well to Beyond Meat's product, FYI.
Apparently the House of Representatives just passed a measure demanding to know if the Department of Defense ever tried to weaponize ticks. The assumption is clearly that ticks with some lethal levels of bacteria have made it into the wild...
This is about as disturbing a thought as I can imagine. Like, I'm never leaving the house again disturbing.
When I grew up in Virginia, I was in the woods all the time. Ticks were a regular thing for us. My brother said he once had one behind his ear for a week. It inflated, and he bounced it around with his finger like it was some kind of pet. So gross, I know. Sorry for bringing it up. He was probably six.
The worst we ever heard was Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Apparently that's now like the common cold. My son got Lyme meningitis when he was eight. Two weeks in the hospital, a PICC line for the antibiotics, and he will never be rid of it because you can't kill it. It's like some prehistoric undead black alien bacteria that's been frozen in an ice cap for 10,000 years...
And now there's apparently a tick whose bite will make you allergic to red meat. And to think the DoD might've thought this would be a good idea.
Not sure if that tick-borne meat allergy will include Beyond Meat or not. One thing's for sure: It's getting weird out there.
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The Revolt of the Public
I listened to an amazing podcast last night. Former CIA analyst Martin Gurri wrote a book called The Revolt of The Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium.
He's talking about the impact of the digital age of information and content. He's exploring the ideas that information and content are very directly tied to the power of the various institutions. He uses the example of the printing press and how that impacted the institution of the church.
Where once you had all discussion of God and the Bible coming from the church, the church was all-powerful. Then the printing press opened the discussion up. And the church was fractured as a result. But it could've been worse, because you still had to have an education to be able to enter the discussion. So the scope was still limited...
Fast-forward to today, when the internet has put literally billions of people into the various conversations. And the impact is that every institution we have is under attack. Government, journalism, the arts, academia, law enforcement, Wall Street — we are increasingly distrustful of them all.
Look at Europe. Brexit has already happened. Leadership is basically hated. Macron and Merkel have approval ratings in the 20s. There is open revolt in France. Catalonia has tried to secede from Spain.
Think about any hierarchical institution where you have "elites" at the top that once directed the conversation. No more. Look at this in terms of the "Me Too" movement. Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Louis C.K. — these people helped lead us culturally for the last decade or more. Gone. And there's no replacement, either.
Twitter and Facebook have put the conversation in the hands of the people. And as a group, all we can agree on is what we don't like, what we don't trust, what we want to tear down...
Gurri worries that we are headed for pure nihilism. I'm having a hard time arguing against him right now. And I'm only just starting to ponder what this will mean for us as investors...
Until next time,
A 21-year veteran of the newsletter business, Briton Ryle is the editor of The Wealth Advisory income stock newsletter, with a focus on top-quality dividend growth stocks and REITs. Briton also manages the Real Income Trader advisory service, where his readers take regular cash payouts using a low-risk covered call option strategy. He also contributes a weekly column to the Wealth Daily e-letter. To learn more about Briton, click here.
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