Ethan Brown, founder and CEO of Beyond Meat, poses with company executives and guests during the company's IPO at the Nasdaq Market site in New York, U.S., May 2, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Shares of vegan burger maker Beyond Meat Inc surged 84 percent in their market debut on Thursday, as investors look to cash in on the growing popularity of veganism.

The stock opened at $46, well above its IPO price of $25, giving Beyond Meat a market capitalization of around $2.75 billion, including underwriters’ option.

Shares surged to $50 just minutes after starting to trade and were halted due to volatility. It has since resumed trading.

Earlier on Tuesday, the company raised the size and price of its offering after increased demand from investors. The IPO raised $240 million.

The money raised from the IPO gives Beyond Meat firepower to compete with its chief rival and Silicon Valley startup Impossible Foods.

Plant-based substitutes for meat have been gaining popularity as more people shift towards vegan or vegetarian diets, amid growing concerns about animal welfare and the environmental hazards of intensive animal farming.

Burger King and Impossible Foods last month started selling their vegan burger Impossible Whopper in 59 stores in and around St. Louis, Missouri.

Los Angeles-based Beyond Meat began selling its plant-based burger at fast-food chain Carl’s Jr in January.

The company said it intends to use a bulk of its IPO proceeds for research and development, as well as building manufacturing facilities.

Beyond Meat creates substitutes for meat by using ingredients that mimic the composition of animal-based meat, like proteins from peas, faba beans and soy, that look and cook like beef or chicken.

Investors in Beyond Meat include Microsoft founder Bill Gates and actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Beyond Meat’s existing stockholders did not sell any shares in the offering.

Tyson Foods Inc, the no. 1 U.S. meat processor, owned a 6.5 percent stake in Beyond Meat, but last week said it sold its holding, as it looks to develop its own line of alternative protein products.

Beyond Meat’s net loss narrowed marginally to $29.89 million in the year ended Dec. 31, from $30.38 million a year earlier. Net revenue more than doubled to $87.93 million in the same period.

The company warned it may never turn a profit and expects higher expenses as it looks to expand its footprint.

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