Experts say watch these 5 companies clamoring to join the plant-based 'meat' market dominated by Beyond Meat

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Beyond Meat is not the only protein producer to which investors should be paying attention.

Sure, the plant-based meat alternatives company has had an outstanding first few months on the market. And shares are trading up more than 500% from their IPO price of $25, making Beyond Meat’s IPO the best-performing in the US this year.

But analysts are growing skeptical and have turned from bullish to neutral. The first dent in the company’s armor was a 25% drop on June 11 after JPMorgan downgraded the stock to neutral from overweight, citing concerns over the company’s valuation.

The rest of Wall Street quickly followed suit, backing away from Beyond Meat. The last analyst with a buy rating downgraded the stock to market perform Wednesday.

Increased competition in the space has also led Beyond’s stock to whiplash as a number of food companies have jumped to get into the plant-based meat market, which analysts at Barclays have estimated could grow to be roughly $140 billion over the next decade.

As more players enter the field, there will be extra pressure on Beyond to perform against established food companies with brand recognition and a competitive edge.

“[Those stalwarts have] already got a whole sales distribution and delivery network in place,” said Don Close, a senior analyst of animal protein at Rabobank. “That’s going to be a huge advantage.”

But some industry watchers disagree that traditional food and meat companies will take the lead.

“When you have existing meat manufacturers getting into this space, for those who are driven by idealism and wanting to change the planet, it won’t move them in any significant way,” said Eric Schiffer, CEO of the Patriarch Organization, a private-equity firm.

Still, Schiffer said that increased competition could apply downside pressure to Beyond, especially as other products come to market and drive down the price.

“I think that there will be products that are more capital efficient,” he said. “There are also products that taste better than Beyond Meat’s burger, which will be an important factor for consumers going forward.”

Expanding the plant-based meat alternatives space beyond ground beef — which Beyond Meat burgers replicate — will also be important as its only a small portion of animal protein, said Will Sawyer, lead economist of animal protein at CoBank.

Tyson Foods announced Thursday that it would launch a line of plant-based meat alternatives that included burgers, chicken nuggets, and blended products that include meat and plants.

“We used to have two options — you could go alt or traditional,” said Sawyer. But an in-between option is interesting, he said, and consumers will soon decide if that’s where they want to be.

For investors looking for less hype and a more stable trajectory, here are some other major players that analysts say are worth watching: