Plantbased Business Hour

What You Need To Know Before You IPO: George Khalife of Toronto Stock Exchange

George Khalife, VP of US Capital Formation on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) at TMX Group joins Elysabeth on The Plantbased Business Hour With Elysabeth Alfano to discuss taking Plant-based Innovation brands public on the exchange. Here, they break down what you need to know before you IPO.

Specifically, they discuss:

  1. What is the TSX history with taking plant-based brands public?
  2. What have been the TSX successes and trouble spots with that?
  3. What is your view on taking plant-based brands public on TSX going forward?
  4. What is your view on the sector as a whole: past, present and future?
  5. What do companies need to know before they IPO?

Below is a highlight clip and transcription from their long-form conversation.

Podcast link here.

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Elysabeth: So who would be better to speak with about this than the Vice President of US Capital Formation at the Toronto Stock Exchange, George Khalife.

So in the plant-based innovation sector, what do you see? I used to ask this question for the next ten years, but life changes so quickly now. I’ll say what do you see for the sector, which is going to be reflective of the economy as a whole, in the next three years?

George Khalife: If you’re a solid company, if you fill those gaps and you really push through, there will always be a market and that’s my personal philosophy. It’s one that if you’re a good company pursuing this for the right reasons, there will always be the right time and window to pursue it. That’s the final piece there.

On the views of the sector as a whole, there are six things to touch on. The first is you know, costs are not declining. Many of them are rising specifically for emerging brands that are trying to be innovative in the proteins they’re using, such as alternative proteins, but also trying to use authentic local flavors. So they’re trying to offer value through taste and affordability. That’s the first piece. That’s part of the innovation I’m seeing.

The second piece is us as consumers and shoppers are always seeking deals. We always want new flavors or innovative flavors. We want new experiences. So it’s actually becoming much, much harder for brands to secure retail shelf space because there’s a lot of competition. One has to be a bit cautious about what a loyal consumer means in today’s market, specifically for CPG.

TSX logo
© TSX

A third piece, I would say that the consensus among this group was that 2024 seemed more optimistic from the supply chain piece, specifically because they see more enhancements coming. So they see a better market condition for us.

Fourth is that brands must continue to adapt in a very changing landscape. In this case, what we’re talking about is retailers continue finding ways to sort of squeeze margins. So that seems to be shifting market demand and you have to be sort of careful as to how you maximize upside where you’re controlling your costs to gain shelf space. I think that’s the important piece because consumers are, this is the interesting one, consumers want more and more and their habits are changing: Clean label, fresh, local, plant-based. How do you do that and offer it without driving the cost to the consumer? Otherwise the price will be out of their comfort zone.

Elysabeth: And you can’t be everything to everyone because you look at this list and now oh my gosh, you have to be low and you have to be special and you have to be natural, but you have to have cost as if you were generic. And the grocery stores want blood more than money at this point. It’s beyond the realm of money, it’s gone to blood. So if you’re not JBS, how do you get on that shelf? So it’s important to understand as you say what it means to have your loyal customer that will change according to deal and understanding which part of the market you’re carving out and then doing your best to serve them with deals. I don’t want to cut you off. You were on a roll. You’ve got more to say, but I just want to say this is a long list and we don’t expect everyone to be everything to the whole world.

George Khalife: And then finally, we touched a little bit on artificial intelligence and generative AI. I think that piece to me was an interesting one specifically from the marketing piece. So for a lot of brands out there thinking about how to optimize and automate a lot of your marketing effort is going to be helpful, but also optimizing your supply chain visibility are two components that everybody on the panel really touched on. But do explore that further and hopefully those were some helpful insights.


Elysabeth Alfano is the CEO of VegTech™ Invest, the advisor to the VegTech™ Plant-based Innovation & Climate ETF, EATV. She is also the founder of Plant Powered Consulting and the Host of the Plantbased Business Hour.

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