Hampton Creek, the five-year-old self-described “food technology” company with a huge following thanks to its egg-less mayonnaise and cookie products, has hit it big with Walmart and Target. The San Francisco-based company announced last week on social media that it is launching over 40 new foods, all of which are free of animal products. The new offerings include pancake and cake mixes, salad dressings, and an egg-free breakfast scramble product. The new salad dressings will be available at Walmart, while a new peanut butter “Just Cookie Dough” will land on Target’s shelves.
The company behind Just Mayo has resonated with consumers not only for its products’ quality and therefore high ratings on sites such as Amazon, but also due to its competitive pricing. Driven by an ethos that plant-based foods should be available to everyone, the company’s Just Mayo product is even available at Dollar Tree locations: An eight-ounce jar at one of those stores will set you back $1.
The company’s success largely rests on a large research and development team that has analyzed the proteins of thousands of plants, and have narrowed down to less than 20 that have the most potential to replace animal-based ingredients, notably those pesky eggs. Hence a varietal of yellow peas is behind the magic of Just Mayo and sorghum creates the chewy goodness of Hampton Creek’s cookies and cookie dough.
Hampton Creek’s emphasis on technology has launched the company on a quest: to make the oft-cruel and inefficient egg industry obsolete and provide a scalable and healthful protein alternative that is more environmentally responsible and cost-effective. The results have reaped some impressive wins for the company, including landing its cookies at locations of Compass Group, the massive food-services company that serves over 4 billion meals daily across 50,00 venues. The company’s innovation and success with mainstream retailers are in part why Hampton Creek was lauded by the World Economic Forum as one of the 50 most innovative companies in the world.
The company’s mission has created some enemies, too. The American Egg Board, a powerful trade group that serves as the leading voice for egg producers in the U.S., was nailed in the media after it was revealed that some of its members lobbied the Department of Agriculture in an attempt to prevent Just Mayo from being sold on supermarket shelves. The multinational Unilever, which has long trumpeted its sustainability credentials, filed a lawsuit against Hampton Creek in 2014, charging that the startup had indulged false advertising and unfair competition. Lawyers representing Unilever claimed that egg-free Just Mayo did not fit the legal definition of “mayonnaise” since it lacked the ingredient. After howls of protest from the social media world and an online petition that left Unilever with more than egg on its face, the lawsuit was dropped.
The fact that Hampton Creek has found acceptance at mainstream big-box stores such as Target and Walmart, in addition to the success found by other startups like Beyond Meat — not to mention the emergence of laboratory food ventures including Memphis Meats, promises to transform a global food system that is wasteful, uses excessive amounts of land, water and chemicals, and, to many critics, dismisses animal welfare in the pursuit of profits.
With 9 billion people expected to live on this planet by 2050, these food entrepreneurs such as Josh Tetrick, Hampton Creek’s CEO, have made us aware of the absurdity of growing massive amounts of crops to feed animals when such resources could feed humans instead. And as the company’s rapid growth reveals, these companies promise to do so not only healthfully and responsibly, but with products that are also delicious.
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