“The word ‘disruption’ makes our hearts beat a little bit faster at Hampton Creek,” Ms. Love said during a presentation at Natural Products Expo West/Engredea on March 6. “We are looking at the food system in a new way. What would it look like if we started the food system over?”
Hampton Creek’s stated mission is to bring healthier and affordable food to everyone, everywhere. The company was named one of Entrepreneur Magazine’s “100 Brilliant Companies” and one of CNBC’s “Top 50 Disruptors.” CEO Josh Tetrick was also named to Inc. Magazine’s “35 Under 35” list of top entrepreneurs.
Just Mayo, the company’s first product, sold out at Safeway stores within two weeks after launching, and become the best-selling mayo at Whole Foods. The product is now available nationwide in Dollar Tree, Whole Foods, ShopRite, Kroger, select Costco warehouses, more than 600 natural channel stores, and will soon be launching in North American Target and Walmart locations. In 2013 Bill Gates named Hampton Creek one of three companies shaping the future of food.
Unilever, which owns the Hellman’s mayonnaise brand, sued Hampton Creek for false advertising in November last year, claiming the Just Mayo product does not meet the FDA’s definition of mayonnaise. Unilever dropped the lawsuit in January, amid public outcries that it was attempting to strong-arm competition, but not before Hampton Creek gained national attention.
The company is well funded, having announced in December that it raised about $90 million in a fundraising round. Investors include Li Ka-shing, a Hong Kong business magnate, investor and philanthropist who, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index (as of April 2014) is the richest person in Asia, with a net worth of $31.9 billion.
In August last year the company partnered with Compass Group, which is the largest foodservice company in the world serving more than 7 million meals a day. Compass Group, which has a history of innovative projects to create healthier, more nutritious and more sustainable food, is phasing out egg-based mayonnaise and cookies to serve only Just Mayo and Just Cookies.
A Recipe for Success
Many consumers face the dilemma of choosing between food that’s tasty and affordable yet unhealthy, or food that’s healthy but unpalatable and expensive, Ms. Love noted. However, what if there was a delicious, affordable and healthy option for everyday consumers? To appeal to this group, which she referred to as the Dads of the world, products need to taste as good if not better than the conventional product, and be at least 1 cent cheaper.
To find that ultimate recipe, Hampton Creek has built a system for screening and evaluating the other 92% of plant species in the world to help define potential roles in food. The company has partnered with chefs, culinary experts, food scientists and chemists to explore the potential of the natural plant world.
“We don’t want to be a niche product,” said Ms. Love, “we want to be the thing people reach for because it tastes good and it’s affordable—and by the way it’s good for the planet too.”
According to Hampton Creek, each case of Just Cookies (210 cookies) uses 2,000 fewer gallons of water, requires 7 fewer square meters of land, and contains 3,000 fewer mg of cholesterol (0 mg per cookie), compared to conventional cookies.
Looking to add to its product line-up, the company is currently studying noodles, dressings, custard and scrambled eggs, according to Ms. Love. Ultimately though, products need to be affordable and they need to taste as good as the conventional option. But if you accomplish those two tasks, and can tell a story about how the product is also sustainable and good for the environment, then you have a winner, she added.
“If we’ve learned anything about consumers it’s that good people will do good things, but it has to be easy. We’re making things easier for people to do the right thing.”