Beyond Meat and former co-packer accuse each other of failing to supply critical documents, text messages, during discovery in increasingly bitter legal dispute

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

According to Beyond Meat, "Don Lee Farms and the Goodmans brazenly defrauded Beyond Meat in an effort to misappropriate its IP and enter the plant-based meat market..." Image credit: Beyond Meat
According to Beyond Meat, "Don Lee Farms and the Goodmans brazenly defrauded Beyond Meat in an effort to misappropriate its IP and enter the plant-based meat market..." Image credit: Beyond Meat

Related tags: Beyond meat, Don Lee Farms, plant-based meat, beyond burger

Don Lee Farms has filed a motion to compel Beyond Meat to share text messages from CEO Ethan Brown in the latest installment of an increasingly acrimonious legal dispute* between the plant-based meat firm and former co-manufacturer Don Lee Farms triggered by the early termination of an exclusive five-year supply agreement between the two parties.

Don Lee Farms is seeking, among other things, the appointment of an independent forensic examiner to assess the potential deletion of text messages by Brown, in an order filed with the Superior Court in Los Angeles on August 19.

In the filing, Don Lee alleges that, “There remain large, inexplicable gaps in Beyond Meat’s production – gaps that are facially critical, including missing messages from Beyond Meat’s CEO from time periods that are hotly disputed between the parties.”

Beyond Meat - which has not responded to a request for comment – in turn, argues in court filings that Don Lee Farms has not provided the documents and text messages its attorneys have requested, noting that:

“Beyond Meat has virtually no discovery from Don Lee Farms or the Goodmans related to Beyond Meat’s trade secret misappropriation and trademark infringement claims, despite their promises to produce responsive documents…

“Many of the Goodmans’ texts​ [Don Lee Farms executives] appear to be missing messages about key topics and from key periods in the case.”

A jury trial is scheduled for May 2022.

What is the dispute all about?​

The dispute began in May 2017 - three years after the two parties entered into a five-year exclusive supply agreement - with Don Lee Farms alleging that Beyond Meat wrongfully terminated the parties’ fixed term contract “under the guise of purported health and safety concerns."​​​

Don Lee went on to accuse Beyond Meat of sharing trade secrets with Don Lee's rivals to help competitors “actively solicit​​​” to replace Don Lee as Beyond Meat’s co-manufacturer “at prices more favorable to Beyond Meat”​​​ than those agreed in its supply contract with Don Lee.

Beyond Meat then countersued, alleging that Don Lee breached its supply agreement by failing to address serious food safety concerns.  

According to Don Lee Farms: "Contrary to Beyond Meat's marketing story, we will prove our claim that Beyond Meat misappropriated our trade secrets to manufacture the Beyond Burger and other products. We will prove the breach of the Exclusive Supply Agreement and fraud claim committed by Mr. Nelson ​​[Beyond Meat’s CFO, who left the company on May 5] and others."

According to Beyond Meat: “Don Lee Farms was a former co-packer that was unable to maintain a safe and sanitary manufacturing environment for Beyond Meat’s products.  As Beyond Meat has alleged in its lawsuit, Don Lee Farms and the Goodmans brazenly defrauded Beyond Meat in an effort to misappropriate its intellectual property and enter the plant-based meat market."​​​

Read about recent developments in the case HERE​.  

*The case is Don Lee Farms vs Savage River Inc (d.b.a. Beyond Meat) Case #: BC662838 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, CA.​ 

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