With the blossoming of interest in plant-based eating and soaring demand for meat alternatives like Beyond Meat and Impossible Meat, it was only a matter of time before vegans got their own ETF.
Taking a contrarian approach, the first vegan ETF is looking at divestment — screening out companies that engage in explicitly non-vegan or climate-unfriendly practices. The result however, looks like somewhat middle-of-the-road, akin to a New York Stock Exchange-ready portfolio heavy in technology stocks.
Beyond Investing, a European company led by three vegan investors, announced its plan to start the US Vegan Climate ETF on the NYSE this fall, using the stock ticker name “VEGN,” Beyond Investing said in a statement.
The company announced its intent to file last October and initially planned to start trading in January. Beyond Investing CEO Claire Smith said the delay was due to unspecified issues with their adviser registration that are now resolved.
The US Vegan Climate ETF builds on the US Vegan Climate Index, ticker VEGAN, that Beyond launched last year. The index excludes companies from the Solactive US Large Cap Index that engage in animal testing, the development of animal-based products, and other activities viewed as harmful to animals and the environmental.
“As compared with an exposure to the Solactive U.S. Large Cap index, an investor in this new index will avoid funding the slaughter of 13 animals a year for every $1,000 invested,” Beyond Investing said in its statement. The ETF will “address the concerns of vegans, animal lovers and environmentalists by avoiding investments in companies whose activities directly contribute to animal suffering, destruction of the natural environment and climate change,” Bloomberg reported. Investors, however, will pay a slight premium; its expense ratio is 0.60%, higher than the sustainable, responsible and impact investing average of 0.44%.
A look under the hood finds that in practice, a vegan ETF is more of a tech-heavy ESG ETF. The top five companies in the portfolio are Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, MasterCard, and Visa. This is not an uncommon approach; the largest sustainable ETF, iShares MSCi KLD 400 Social ETF (DSI), is made up of nearly one-third of technology stocks, a significant skew relative to the S&P 500.
But that may not be the case for long, as the announcement of the first vegan ETF comes amid rapid growth in plant-based alternatives as scientists point to land use for livestock as a significant contributor to climate change.
Fast food giant Burger King is preparing to roll out the plant-based Impossible Whopper to more than 7,000 of its U.S. locations this week. Beyond Meat, another plant-based protein startup that went public earlier this year, is making plans to offer vegan items at Dunkin’ doughnut shops. Chicago-based ingredient giant Archer Daniels also announced plans to enter the market , as Barclays predicts a market worth $140 billion in the next ten years.