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Markets News

EXCLUSIVE-Plant-based egg maker JUST sees profit next year, then will look at IPO

CHICAGO, Aug 19 (Reuters) - As shoppers raise grocery spending due to the COVID-19 pandemic, plant-based egg startup JUST says it aims to turn an operating profit before the end of next year and then will consider an initial public offering.

Expectations for an IPO of the company, officially called Eat Just Inc, have been fueled by a boom in demand for plant-based food. Led by companies including Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, U.S. retail sales of plant-based food rose 11% last year to $5 billion, with the faux egg market nearly tripling, according to market research firm SPINS.

San Francisco-based JUST makes a mung bean-based egg substitute that comes in bottles and looks like beaten fresh eggs. JUST, which makes a mayonnaise substitute as well, sells its products in stores including Walmart, Kroger and Whole Foods. With COVID-19 driving demand for groceries, sales have risen at plant-based food companies, including Beyond Meat which tripled retail sales in the April-June quarter.

JUST Chief Executive Officer Josh Tetrick said that when the pandemic began spreading he thought it would delay any plans for the company to go public. But homebound customers increased purchases.

“It makes it more likely we’ll go public sooner,” he said. “The target to hit operating profitability is sometime before the end of 2021,” he added.

“Once we hit operating profitability, then I’ll really begin considering an IPO with my team and with my board and with some of our major shareholders,” he said.

It is the first time the company has indicated when it could turn profitable and possibly list.

To cut costs, Tetrick said the company needs to find ways to extract more protein from mung beans, and buy more beans from its suppliers in East Africa and Asia so it can negotiate lower costs. Eat Just, which sells products in China and Europe, said it also expects a sales boost from deals with consumer companies, retailers and chicken egg suppliers around the world.

Beyond Meat sold shares for $25 each when it went public in May 2019 - the stock is now worth about $124 per share. (Editing by Peter Henderson and Jacqueline Wong)

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